The goal of Starting Out Right is to share, with a broad audience, a wealth of knowledge based on a summary of extensive research. The book focuses on children from birth through the first years of formal schooling, and our hope is that the findings it contains will be widely used to improve their reading and educational prospects. To this end, these pages include practical guidelines, program descriptions, advice on resources, and strategies that can be used in everyday life, including:

  • practical literacy and language activities for parents and their young children and

  • activities and practices for classrooms.

We caution that most of the activities could be used to excess. Consider as an example the statement that “the more you read with your children, the more they will learn to love reading.” In this book we emphasize that reading to young children is important for language and literacy growth—but it can be overdone. After several days of too many hours of reading every day, the reading experience might well start to become distasteful for a child.

The language and literacy activities included in this book illustrate the underlying concepts important for reading that are supported by scientific research. Many of the activities are familiar, and they are here to connect what readers may already know to unfamiliar-sounding concepts such as ”phonological awareness.” Our hope is that, through these activities, the nature of each literacy concept—along with ways to support its development and to look out for problems—will become clear. We expect that the individual activities included will be helpful for most children; however, they are examples rather than comprehensive curricula in themselves. For many activities, we provide a list of resources for obtaining comprehensive curricula on teaching a concept. The glossary on page 147 gives basic definitions of unfamiliar reading terms found throughout the text.


This books consists of five chapters. We know that some readers may only have interest in one particular chapter. For example, the parent of a child about to enter first grade may be most interested in the chapter on Becoming Real Readers.

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