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Children reading

I Have a Passion for Literacy.

Over my thirty-year career as an educator, researcher, and writer, I have tried to stay on its cutting edge. My books for teachers and parents advocate for important-sometimes unsung-topics:

This year in America about 1.5 million children entered kindergarten who could not write their name. As anyone who pays attention to our nation's educational system can attest, a major problem with our schools is that 43% of children come to school already behind and not ready for success with reading. Teachers witness it every day-these same children, who represent a much talked about performance "achievement gap," have great difficulty catching up with their peers. Many never do. Public schools have sought solutions with bold programs to insure that all children read on grade level by grade three. These program have not been successful. 


Many of the efforts have not succeeded because they are too little too late. Instead of waiting to teach formal reading to six and seven year olds who aren't well prepared for success, we should place more emphasis on teaching reading joyfully and informally during a critical period of brain development between birth and age four. Science now shows natural baby-reading brain capacity as early as eight or nine months of age-not for formal instruction, but for joyful bonding interactions with parents focusing on books, word learning and communication. We should be providing much more emphasis on the notion of the parent as the first reading teacher and step up to the plate with preschool education.


Just imagine a nation where every child has been exposed to books and joyful word reading, vocabulary, and concept development beginning soon after birth. Imagine all parents bonding with their children over loving interactions with books and word reading. A new scientific study shows that babies and toddlers who hear sophisticated language in preschool are better readers in fourth grade. Imagine every child entering kindergarten already writing his or her name and already able to talk about a favorite book. Just imagine how much more these children would be able to learn as they progress through the educational system and how much better it would be for everybody. This goal is achievable and it makes good financial sense. 


A recent Carnegie report sums it up well:

Results of a 25- year follow-up study, conducted between 1998 and 2001, show the potential of high-quality early intervention programs to level the playing field and lead to measurable improvements in participants' school performance and adult life choices-saving taxpayers' money over time.


Underpinning this notion, James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, reports that investments in early childhood education pay a return of 7 percent or more-better than many investments in Wall Street. In fact, they pay for themselves.


Preschool education reduces taxpayer expenses for things like special and remedial education, school dropouts and crime and leads to higher incomes creating a stronger consumer base. If we as a nation want to continue to be able to compete economically, scientifically, and in the arts and create a better life for our children, there is no better place to start than with baby/toddler reading.


PT.comPsychology Today Blog buton

My Blog on

Beginning last year, I was asked to write a blog on education issues by the editors of  My post on the blog, Raising Readers, Writers and Spellers, have covered a diverse range of topics such as baby reading, effects of technology on education, why we need spelling instruction in our schools, dyslexia, school reform and much more. Below, you will find a few excerpts and links to some of the post. I hope you enjoy them and will let me know your thoughts by commenting online. Thanks. 



10-25-2011 13:05:32 PM

Common Core State Standards are the new hot topic in American education, perhaps as important in shaping what happens in America's classrooms as No Child Left Behind. Some interpretations of the Common Core State Standards seem to call for yet another assault on teachers and their current practices. Primary Topic:  Education read more...�


09-15-2011 15:00:08 PM

Here's a misleading statement: "Language is acquired quite well before the age of 6, but trying to force your children to read before the age of 4 is an effort that doesn't work very well because the brain is not very well equipped to tell the letter 'b' from the letter 'd' and so on," Primary Topic:  Child Development read more...�


07-13-2011 11:11:11 AM

For the first time in history, a generation of American students will be less well educated than their parents. Teachers are getting the blame. While teachers have become the scapegoats for America's failing schools, maybe it's time to shine the light on parents. Primary Topic:  Parenting read more...�


06-23-2011 17:08:43 PM

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is taking a sensible lead for the 21st century and updating its policy on technology and screen time from birth to age 3. This is a wise and bold move, but guess who objects to this timely and prudent 21st-century stance. Primary Topic:  Parenting read more...�


05-20-2011 12:46:38 PM

A standing-room--only crowd packed the aisles, and people sat sprawled on the carpet in front of room W208b of the Orlando Convention Center, hungry for an alternative to twenty years of dumbed-down spelling instruction. I threw out fresh steak-Bring back spelling!-to a ravenous audience. Here's the meat of what I had to say: Primary Topic:  Parenting read more...�

Author Bio


 J. Richard Gentry, Ph.D., a former university professor and elementary school teacher, is author of Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write-From Baby to Age 7 (Da Capo Press/Lifelong Books). His other books include The Science of Spelling (Heinemann) as well as a popular spelling textbook series for grades K-8, Spelling Connections (Zaner-Bloser). 
Media Recent Media and Announcements

Richard discusses the Phases of Reading from his book Raising Confident Readers
Richard discusses the Phases of Reading from his book Raising Confident Readers RCR with price
Dr. Gentry's interview on WGN Chicago, August 30, 2011
Gentry's interview on WGN Chicago
Quick Links




Gentry Selected as a Director on the

 BrillKids Foundation Advisory Board


The BrillKids Foundation is the charity arm of the BrillKids Group, dedicated to ensuring that all children in the world may enjoy the benefits of early childhood education, irrespective of their background.


With the goal to reach out to all children by instilling them with a life-long enthusiasm for reading and learning and to foster that child's search for meaning, the BrillKids Foundation announced the appointment of Dr. J. Richard Gentry as the Chairman of the Advisory Board. Dr. Gentry will work with other professionals to accomplish the worldwide mission of the foundation by fostering early reading, creating early literate environments in every home, valuing young children's feelings and interest, and responding to the very young child's natural curiosity about the world. 


To find out more about the BrillKids Foundation and how you can help to promote world literacy go to  


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