The 3 Engines That Could ….


In the summer of 2016, the Superintendent of the public schools of Burlington, Massachusetts had a vision. He wanted all of his ‘someday’  students to be read to- beginning at birth.

So he purchased 1500 of my books, “Make Time for Reading” for his high school students to deliver and donate to parents and their newborns at the local birthing hospital.

Soon the local Chamber of Commerce joined the effort.

The 3 Engines that could … Parents, Schools and Businesses  coming together to equal … BURLINGTON READS!

To read more about this exciting effort and the challenges faced by struggling readers, see:


My youngest students … babies with their Moms


Am I lucky or what ….

Every month I get to teach a class with babies and their Moms at their birthing hospital. I talk about how babies are actually ‘collecting information’ about language by studying what sounds look like on the lips of their parents. As they near 12 months,  babies begin to gaze at their parents’ eyes looking for more information and to deepen the bond and attachment. Babies are also listening – listening for the important people in their lives.

 So turn down that background TV and put away the cell phone…

Talk, sing and read to your baby and most importantly … r e s p o n d   to your baby’s grunts, utterances and gestures … face-to-face and  eyeball-to-eyeball. They are studying YOU!

Image 7-14-16 at 8.50 AM


One of the best ways to understand the neuroscience of early brain and early literacy development is through a sports metaphor.  “Serve and Return” refers to the infant’s extraordinary capacity to take turns not only initiating an interaction (Serve) but also responding to a conversation (Return) with the most important people in the infant’s life. (see:


When babies and parents are interacting,  two important things happen: 1) the relationship between baby and parents deepens and bonds and, 2) this bond facilitates the baby’s desire to not only listen for the rhythm and patterns of the language, but to study what word-sounds look like on their parents’ mouths.

Like a diligent student attending to homework, babies are collecting important data from their parents so that the neural pathways for language (and later literacy) among their brain cells form and strengthen.

Bonding, listening and gazing come together to build the social, emotional and language foundation necessary for learning to read and succeed in school.

So give your baby the 3-dimensional world that builds bonding, listening and gazing  ….   daily reading.

Reading with newborn Henry.jpg

Little Children Imitate the Important People in Their Lives


We know that children as young as toddlers imitate the important people in their lives. Some will pretend read and pretend write long before they learn to read and write in school. That’s why it’s so important you make sure they see Y O U read.

So read your novels, your newspapers, your recipes, your mail –  Be conspicuous –in front of your child. They are listening and they are watching. And without a doubt, they are one of the best captive audiences you will ever have.

WHY write a book?

I had the opportunity to reflect on why I wrote my 2013 self-published book, Make Time for Reading – (

What worked about the final product is that after almost 10 years in development, I was proud of its quality. I did not compromise on book design, (Elizabeth DiPalma,, book illustrations (Peter J. Thornton) and book printing (Universal Wilde, Westwood, Mass). All 3 were top-notch choices. I wanted a beautiful book and I got one.

What I appreciate about my book is that I get to leave something behind. My book is my legacy and it is, thus far, my best work in 45 years of working with families and children.

What inspired me to write the book was our daughter’s personal journey toward becoming a reader. Starting in her infancy I had the distinct privilege of leading her on a path filled with songs, rhymes, chants, crayons, markers, stories, books, word games, and libraries. She mastered reading by first grade and read recreationally like her life depended on it all through elementary and middle school. Fast forward to 2015 where she made the Dean’s list her first year at UMass Commonwealth Honors College; no surprise there.  Her 6-year journey to reading is chronicled in my book in musical rhymes.

What I am committed to is that all children have the opportunity to learn and love to read. This is clear. So clear that at my eulogy (whenever that happens)  …..  this is what I want to be remembered for.

Book cover Make Way for Reading





Matthew is not only a New England Patriots fan but he is  enjoying hearing his mother and father talk and read to him every day and often.

At his age, it matters less what is read to him– and more that he hears the rhythms and tones of his parents’ voices. That’s because his brain is listening for the parts and patterns of word sounds so that he can learn to understand and speak the language of the important people around him. And language …. is the path to learning-to-read.

Reading is more rhythmic than talking- especially books that rhyme.

So get to your local library and check out 5-10 baby books that repeat and rhyme the sounds in words. Your baby is listening for them!

Baby Joe reading

Parent Message #10 from my book, “Make Time for Reading”


Page 10A for BLOG

As your preschooler moves from scribbling to drawing to printing, they ‘invent’ letters, little sentences and stories.

Most importantly, they begin to connect the sounds they hear to letters. 



Figure 1

1. Collect discarded household food or other well-preserved labels from your home that have some relevance for your child … like a cereal box, candy wrapper, movie stub, or toy packaging.

2. In a notebook, scrap-book, or a book you make yourself, help your child paste the label on the left side leaving enough white space around the label for your child to write.

3. Say to your child, “ I’d like you to write about what you see.” Your child will likely render a combination of scribbles, drawings and invented letters and words—that’s ok. (see figure 1)

4. Next say to your child, “Now I will write exactly what you tell me you wrote. Be sure to watch me write your words on paper.” As your child speaks, slowly transcribe his or her words exactly, being careful to print neatly. Remind your child to watch you write to help them make the connection between what they say (oral language) and what you print (written language). I

Initially, your child’s dictation may have little connection to what they say they wrote, but over time, they will begin to make more connections between what they write and what they say they wrote. (see figure 2).

figure 2

BLOG photo Feb 20155. Build the book by encouraging your child to be on the lookout for favorite labels. Watch how your child’s oral and written language begins to connect and expand. Reread the book together and remember to have fun!!!