Throughout the years, my mother has taught me valuable life lessons, and now that she is on the cusp of 90 years old, I appreciate her even more for her wisdom and insight. Whenever my mom shares her thoughts, I smile and kindly joke “Mom, I agree with everything you say.” I mean, who can say no to my nearly 90-year-old mother who has spent her entire life raising her own children and helping others’?

It was hard enough for my mom to deal with my four brothers, who spent many of their days playing sports and trading baseball cards.  But while my father traveled, my mom was the rock of our family who never missed a game, helped us with homework, and read to us our favorite bedtime stories.

Back then life seemed simpler. Mom made sure we read every night, and we would spend time together as a family. Today, being a mom or a parent seems tougher. Our lives are filled with distractions, and many parents are overworked and their children are overscheduled. We are seeing more households where a child is growing up with a single parent.

How can we recapture the simplicities of motherhood and parenthood?  From spending time with my mom, I have been able to learn some of her wonderful life’s lessons that are worth sharing with all moms who dedicate their lives to their families.

1. Value yourself as a parent.  In our society, a mom’s role in a child’s life is incredibly important. And the level of the mother’s education directly correlates to the child’s future success. A mom with limited education results in children at risk of poor economic, social, educational, and health outcomes. By improving your life and advancing your education, you are in turn helping your child.  The key is to find resources in your community that help with personal growth and gain confidence that you can achieve it.

 

2. Read with your child.  A parent who reads with their child helps them build their vocabulary and improve their reading skills. More importantly, reading with your child is a wonderful bonding experience. Reading also leads to interesting conversation and the ability of a parent to ask their child questions about the book. This interaction strengthens the child’s cognitive and critical thinking skills.

3. Serve as a role model for your child.  When I was younger, I remember my mom would find a quiet place to read in the house. She was a wonderful example, always inspiring us to read on our own. Children usually model their parents’ behavior, and reading a book is a wonderful way to encourage your own children to read.

4. Make time to share a meal.  To this day, my family loves to sit around the kitchen table and discuss the latest books that we are reading.  We engage in such wonderful conversation.

5. Create a home library.  One way to encourage reading in the house is to build a home library. Go to a used bookstore or check out a book at the library. Today, books are becoming increasingly more accessible, especially those provided by apps on our smartphone. According to researchers, books are important for children with parents who are not high school graduates or are working at unskilled jobs. For these low-income families, a gift of 75 books will enable children to perform at a level that is one-and-a-half grades better than their peers from families who do not own books.

This Mother’s Day, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has partnered with BabyFirst TV to donate free subscriptions to the Snuggles Stories app so that children from low-literacy families can have a digital library. A critical need exists in helping moms across the country to improve their education and literacy skills, which are the keys to unlocking their children’s future potential and educational success. At helpthemread.org, you have an opportunity to honor your mom by sharing your favorite bedtime story that will result in the donation of digital books for other parents to share with their children.

My mom understands that many moms are working hard to take care of their families and are uncertain about their children’s future. She also understands that a mother is a child’s first teacher. Even at 90 years of age, she is working to help families and struggling young readers succeed. My mom believes that the gift of literacy can change a mother and her child’s life.

Doro Bush Koch, daughter of former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, is honorary co-chairman of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Follow Doro on Twitter at @BarbaraBushFdn.