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Straub begins the course by taking Polaroids of each student, "because I want to show them that their faces are the first 'books' their babies read." (And it's true: The littlest children are more interested in Mom's reaction to the book than in the book itself.) In another session, each mother makes her own mini-book by decorating small pieces of stiff cardboard (excellent for chewing) with magazine photos, stenciled letters and stickers; she then hooks the "pages" onto a key ring. Perhaps most meaningful, Straub takes the girls and their children to a local library, where many parents get their first library card.

Straub remembers her own son's passion for The Story of Ferdinand, which he demanded she read over and over. There is a page in the story where Ferdinand smells the flowers as his mother watches from a distance. The text reads: "Sometimes his mother, who was a cow, would worry about him. She was afraid he would be lonesome all by himself. ... [But] his mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy."

"On that page, my son would take his thumb out of his mouth and say, 'Good.' And I realized that was terribly important to him. I was always a rusher, and he enjoyed things at a different pace. I think he was trying to tell me that if I was a good mother, I would trust him to do things at his own speed. Which I learned to do." The point, Straub insists, is that by reading to your child "you are not only teaching him, you are learning about him."

What You Can Do
  • Read To Me can use volunteers, children's books and monetary contributions. You can also start your own Read to Me program. Website: www.readtomeprogram.org PH: 877-787-7323
 

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