July 10th, 2017
When I went to graduate school in education, I learned about how children learn to read, how the process of learning to read actually starts at birth, and how reading affects life success. Much of this information I was hearing for the first time, yet by then, I had taught in an elementary school, and I had three elementary-aged kids of my own. I remember sitting in class one particular day and being almost angry that the information was so new to me, but it felt pretty basic. As a teacher, I wondered why I hadn’t learned it during my training and professional development. And as a parent, I wondered why I hadn’t gotten this information from the start—written on billboards, posted in doctors’ offices, and even on free materials in places like the pharmacy.
Listening to the professor explain the skills that go into successful reading, some of which, she told the class, have nothing to do at all with reading the words on the page, and some of which develop in the first few years of life, I knew I wanted to find a way to spread the word to every parent. It wasn’t that complicated, and it seemed only fair that everyone know.
Ten years later, after working with educators in school districts and community literacy groups all across the country as part of my day job in the quest to improve all children’s reading skills, I started PUP. I began the Parent Uptake Project (PUP) thinking that in addition to my work in schools and communities, I could also get parents to understand the types of skills it takes to be a successful reader, then it could get all children closer to reaching their reading potentials.
As I worked to put this site together over the past three years, I thought if parents had a way to make sure their children were moving forward with building these skills, as babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and as elementary school students, and parents could also support their learning at home, then there would be important consequences. First, children would be on the right path early, and there could be a sort of safety net for kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks in the often-overloaded early intervention and school systems. Second, there would be a way forward for those children who need more challenge — for success in today’s information-age and economy, we need to push all readers forward! Third, that parents would be equipped to ask the right questions, and partner with caregivers, pediatricians, and schools, as they help their children along the pathway to reading well.
Parents and caregivers are THE people who are most invested in a child’s success. And reading is a key ingredient to the school and life success that all parents want for their children. That’s why I think that if we get PUP Reading right, parents will learn about their children’s strengths and weaknesses, understand how to respond to a red flag, and/or be able to keep an eye on what might just be the natural differences that come with each unique child’s learning and growing. They’ll be able to monitor their children’s development in the skills that go into successful reading, get the information to work on building their children’s skills in casual and fun and realistic ways, and have tools to create productive conversations with caregivers, teachers and other partners. Through the important early years, PUP could help parents play a critical role in their child’s road to reading success — so why not try?