A Parent Action Plan

When my daughter went off to school, I was shocked to discover that a good education in America is a long shot, in ways that few parents fully appreciate. Our current approach to literacy offers too little, too late, and attempting to play catch-up when kids get to kindergarten can no longer be our default strategy. The brain architecture for reading develops rapidly during infancy, and early language experiences are critical to building it. That means parents’ work as children’s first teachers begins from day one too—and we need deeper knowledge to play our positions.

Reading for Our Lives challenges the bath-book-bed mantra and the idea that reading aloud to our kids is enough to ensure school readiness. Instead, it gives parents easy, immediate, and accessible ways to nurture language and literacy development from the start. Through personal stories, historical accounts, scholarly research, and practical tips, this book presents the life-and-death urgency of reading, investigates inequity in its achievement, and illuminates a path to a true, transformative education for all.

Ideas and Inspiration for a Smart Start

In Reading for Our Lives, you’ll get:

  • A clear roadmap. Find out what to expect and focus on at each stage and age, from infancy to early elementary.
  • An understanding of foundational literacy skills. Learn how basic skills affect long-term success, and how to introduce and strengthen them with warmth and compassion.
  • Easy action items. Seamlessly add literacy-rich habits into your daily family life with no special tools, apps, or materials required.
  • Evidence-supported tactics. Discover routines, conversation starters, activities, and more that help make regular days with small kids more educational and enjoyable.

An amazing book for perhaps the most important job parents have: getting our kids to love to read.

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Ryan Holiday, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Daily Stoic, The Obstacle Is the Way, and Ego Is the Enemy


Should I buy this book if I have a child at the older end of the birth to six year age range?
I’m a grandparent, foster parent, or other caregiver, does this book apply to me too?
Is the book dense or technical?
How much time is this going to take to implement?

Praise for Reading for Our Lives

Reading for Our Lives is the book to turn to when nurturing critical readers. Like reading, Smart’s book is for our children’s lives. Don’t miss out, because our kids must not miss out on the life-giving power of reading.

Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist

I have rarely had a more visceral reaction to a book than I had in reading Maya Smart’s Reading for Our Lives: I was, in turn, frightened, angered, reassured, and finally, inspired. I was frightened because I thought back on all the things I missed about reading while raising my kids that she expertly details here. I was angry because she offers an expert roadmap for navigating the tough terrain of literacy for our children. And I was inspired because her book is so eloquent and easy to understand as she leads us in the crucial work of providing our children their best futures because they are truly literate. This is a brilliant, timely and life-changing book that is worth far more to you and your children than what it costs to read Maya Smart’s illuminating words and soak in her transformative wisdom.

Michael Eric Dyson co-author of Unequal: A Story of America

A must-read for any parent! This exceptional book walks you through not only the why of reading to your child but the way. The scientifically grounded, step-by-step insights outlined here can heighten both your and your child’s joy at learning one of life’s most important skills: reading.

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers

I anticipate a revolution of reading readiness once parents get their hands on this book! In Reading for Our Lives, Maya Smart puts her faith in parents as the key participants in leading our youngest learners into literacy. No more tears over tedious workbooks or relentless drilling. Instead, Smart offers countless, actionable tips and practices to be used at home. Smart rightly claims that learning to read is of urgent, liberating importance for today’s children. Preparing them at home so that they are equipped for school is a gift any parent can easily give their children, with Smart’s book in hand. I’ll be recommending Reading for Our Lives for years to come. It’s the best book about learning to read I’ve ever read!

Julie Bogart, creator and founder of Brave Writer, author of The Brave Learner and Raising Critical Thinkers

This book is a wonderful resource for families with young children as it recognizes them as the child’s ‘first teachers.’ It weaves together an introduction to early literacy through the child’s ages and stages with recommendations that support raising a reader!

Ann McClain Terrell, early childhood education consultant and National Association for the Education of Young Children past President