Before looking at reviews or blurbs from other writers, I
expected Raising a Reader: A Mother's Tale of Desperation
and Delight to be a memoir about helping children learn to
love reading. Right -- and wrong. What Jennie Nash, mother,
breast cancer survivor and author, has done here is
two-fold: she has written about her two daughters and their
reading processes, and she has added a lot of "how-to"
information for parents struggling to hook their children on
books. Nash is not an educator or a reading specialist; she
is a parent and a passionate reader. She comes from parents
who loved reading. Books -- real, hand-held books (not
e-books) -- are at the center of her life. Fortunately,
books are also of daily importance to her husband and her
two daughters, now ten and seven.
So many people seem to have stopped reading books, in part
because of time constraints, real or imagined, it's touching
to read of one family for which this is still an honored and
Here are some of the reasons Nash has always loved books:
"You can find companionship in books, counsel, solace, and
delight. You can spend hours alone in a room listening to
the quiet music of the written word, transported completely
to another time and place." You can enter others' worlds,
without traveling farther than your comfortable armchair.
Even children today are aware of the shrinking number of
hours in each day and of modern day stressors all around us.
Reading helps, the author believes. "I see my kids using
reading as an antidote to their fast-paced lives," writes
Nash. "If they have a bad day at school or they're not
feeling well or things have been rushing by at a furious
pace, they will withdraw to their beds, slip under the
covers, and lose themselves in a book. When they come back
up for air, they are refreshed."
One important point that Nash stresses throughout the book
is that children learn to read at different rates and
different ages; she urges parents not to worry needlessly.
Although some kids learn to read even before they enter
school, others don't read until the first or even the second
grade. In California, where the author lives, the state
mandates that "all children be reading -- well -- by the end
of the third grade." Two of Nash's keys to getting her own
kids to read were to read to them, of course, and to make
sure they were surrounded by many, many books. When they
went to the library, they would bring back "fifteen,
seventeen, twenty" books, not just one or two.
One of my favorite anecdotes in Raising a Reader is not
about the author. This is the story of a man with five
children who read to each of his children for half an hour
every night throughout all their childhoods. After he became
a grandfather, he would sometimes buy the books his
grandchildren were reading so he could "call them long
distance and read them a chapter over the phone." What a
glorious story -- and what a generous man.
The perfect audience for this book seems a bit unclear, but
my best guess is new parents who wish to inculcate a love or
at least a joy of reading in their children and early
childhood educators, as Nash offers lots of creative
suggestions and title recommendations. In fact, the last
section consists of lists of books for various ages and to
give as shower gifts. Most of her picks are quite famous --
E.B. White, Judy Blume and Maurice Sendak, among them -- but
she also gives credit to more obscure books that deserve to
be better recognized -- for example, ones by Louise Fitzhugh
and Gail Carson Levine.
Raising a Reader is a hopeful and helpful book. This is a
cheerleader's book of how to do something worthwhile, based
on her own highly successful experiences. Nash's enthusiasm
and suggestions will hook many readers, especially those who
are struggling with their children's interest in reading.