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 necessary activity.
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
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.