Fortune Telling, Early Literacy, and Mt. Everest

Mountain Climbing

Did any of you play “fortune telling” when you were a kid? You’d look at your friend’s palm and see the creases and lines that forecasted wealth, love, a long life, or maybe forebode heartache and misery. It was all fun and games and no one took it seriously.

I’d like you to image that you are a palm reader today.How accurate will you be by looking at lines on a palm? You can’t really tell a person how their life will turn out just by a few wrinkles, right? Are you certain of your predictions?  I have a formula that is fool proof (well, almost…but it sure beats a crystal ball). I will be a fortune teller today and tell you if your kids will likely have a long and happy life. It all depends on one thing. Reading.

In one of my favorite books called The Read Aloud Handbook (I read it while living in Chicago and it changed my life), Jim Trelease summarizes solid research that shows a high probability of a child’s later success in life is based on how often a parent read to them while they were growing up:

You read more, therefore…

You know more, therefore…

You’re smarter, therefore…

You stay in school, therefore…

You get more diplomas, therefore…

You have more stable employment, therefore…

You make more money, therefore…

Your kids will get good grades, therefore…

You’ll enjoy a longer and happier life! (Handbook, pp. xxiv, xxv).

It all starts with one book. For a child to have the foundational literacy skills to learn how to read in Kindergarten, their parents need to have read a minimum of 1000 books to their child before they enter school. One thousand books may seem like a lot, but if you break it down, it’s only about two books per day. But those one or two books add up and predict amazing results.

It reminds me of a keynote speaker I heard once at a conference. He had conquered the climb to Mt. Everest after experiencing harrowing, near-death experiences along the way. The final step on the summit was celebrated with a ceremonial flag-posting, pictures, and a brief breath-taking view. But he said something like this: “That last step on the top was not any more important than the first step at base camp. If I hadn’t taken that first step and all the other small but important steps along the way, I would never have taken that final step.” I think that has a lot of significance to many things in life, including the achievement of raising children.

I write this after reading the paper today. I’m so impressed that Utah County has initiated the “EveryDay Learners” reading program by encouraging local businesses to become active in early literacy activities. Today’s article highlighted Tom Hansen. He owns a 7-Eleven convenience store and took up the challenge by Bill Hulterstrom, president of United Way of Utah County, to help young children want to read. He installed two bookshelves in the front of his store, just the height for small children, and stocked them with children’s books. Hansen tells his young friends, “Take a book, read it, bring it back, report about the book to an employee and collect a treat from a variety of healthy snacks like a banana or apple, or have a Slurpee on the house”  (

My hat is off to you, Tom Hansen. You are the newest fortune teller in Utah County. You are creating the next generation of 7-Eleven shoppers who will more likely stay in school, get a diploma, secure more stable employment, earn more money, raise successful children, and have a happy life. Who knows, they may end up owning their own 7-Eleven store filled with a library of books for other young children.

High five to you. Palms and all.


  1. Julie,
    I started thinking of that 7-11 story as I was reading. I’m glad you got to it! A great example of how business and private citizens can do a ton of good. I love reading. I love seeing kids reading. I love reading your blog.

    1. Thanks, Mikle. We can do so much good in the world if we stop waiting for other people or organizations to do it and just do something ourselves. We can all do some thing (two words, not one). You’re a great example of that to me.

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