Sunday, June 11, 2017

Should you eliminate grains from your diet?

Should you eliminate grains from your diet? As part of my weight-loss plan, I have limited the amount of sugar, grains, and legumes that I eat. I haven't eliminated carbs entirely, I just get them from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy.

Some people tell me, "You HAVE to eat grains!" but I have yet to find a reason why, and some reasons why I don't.

In a comparison of nutrients available in the various food groups, there is nothing that I can find that exists in grains and legumes that doesn't exist in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, or dairy.

What am I missing?

Nutrient Fruits Vegetables Dairy Meat Nuts Grains Legumes
Vitamin A
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Vitamin B1
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Vitamin B2
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Vitamin B3
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Vitamin B5
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Vitamin B6
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Vitamin B9
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Vitamin B12
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
Vitamin C
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No
No
No
Vitamin D
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
Vitamin E
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Vitamin K
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Calcium
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Copper
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Iodine
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Iron
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Magnesium
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Manganese
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Phosphorus
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Potassium
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Selenium
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Sodium
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Zinc
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Carbohydrates
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Protein
Some
Some
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Fats
Some
Some
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Note that grain products that you buy in stores are often "fortified" with various vitamins and minerals that either don't occur naturally in them or were removed when processed. But the point of the table above isn't whether grains and legumes have the nutrients, but to point out the fact that a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy DO have all of the nutrients that I need—including carbs and fiber.

True, there may be as yet undiscovered nutrients in grains that aren't in other foods, but it's not likely. There is also the problem of the depletion of nutrients in our soil that reduces the nutrients of anything that we grow in it. But that's a different story.

What is considered "whole grain" is clearly defined by the FDA, but clever marketing has gotten around that to fool consumers into believing they're eating "healthy" whole grains by labeling products as "made with whole grains." The Whole Grains Fact Sheet states that for a product to claim that it is whole grain, it "must contain all portions of the grain kernel, contain at least 51 percent whole grain by weight per reference amount customarily consumed, and meet specified levels for fat, cholesterol, and sodium."  (Sorry famous fast-food sandwich maker, but sprinkling a little oatmeal on top of your bun does not make it whole grain.)

The website also says that "The Institute of Medicine (IOM) established a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates at 130 grams per day for adults and children. This is based on the minimum amount of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) required to provide the brain with an adequate supply of glucose." This is the RDA for healthy adults—and most Americans get more than that per meal, not per day. Besides, if you grind the grain into a powder, your body doesn't have to work hard to digest it, and it's no longer whole, is it? Having seen how my body reacts to grains, I have searched around to find out why my body is so different than those who embrace the "whole grain health" philosophy. In "The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes," the author explains:
"When we eat too many carbohydrates, the pancreas pumps out insulin exactly as the DNA blueprint tells it to (hooray pancreas!), but if the liver and muscle cells are already filled with glycogen, those cells start to become resistant to the call of insulin. The insulin “receptor sites” on the surface of those cells start to decrease in number as well as in efficiency. The term is called “down regulation.” Since the glucose can’t get into the muscle or liver cells, it remains in the bloodstream. Now the pancreas senses there’s still too much toxic glucose in the blood, so it frantically pumps out even more insulin, which causes the insulin receptors on the surface of those cells to become even more resistant, because excess insulin is also toxic! Eventually, the insulin helps the glucose find its way into your fat cells, where it is stored as fat."

And this PDF on diabetes published by the Bellevue Medical Center, states:
"Type 2 diabetes is characterized by peripheral insulin resistance, impaired regulation of hepatic gluconeogenesis, and a relative impairment of beta-cell function. Insulin resistance, characterized by hyperinsulnemia without frank hyperglycemia, is the earliest detectable abnormality and may precede the diagnosis of diabetes by years. Eventually, beta cells are unable to compensate, and insulin levels are inadequate to maintain euglycemia (normal glucose content of the blood). In addition, rising glucose levels may further inhibit beta-cell function (glucotoxicity). The abnormalities in type 2 [diabetes] leading to insulin resistance are the result of genetic predisposition and weight gain. Weight loss, exercise, and decreased caloric intake improve sensitivity to insulin."

After my father died from hyperinsulnemia, one of my uncles mentioned that one of their grandparents had diabetes. So not only is there a possible genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance in my genes, but my being 50 pounds overweight is a "risk factor." My body isn't reacting to carbohydrates the way a normal healthy adult body would react. The insulin receptors in my muscles aren't being very receptive, and so the insulin is shuttling all the glycogen to my fat cells for storage.

The only way to make my muscles more receptive to the insulin is to stop overloading my body with carbs, lose weight, and exercise. In "Why Grains Are Unhealthy" and "How Grains Are Killing You Slowly," the authors describe why they believe we shouldn't be eating grains at all. (Grains contain lectins, glutens, and phytates, none of which are good for your body.) Both authors suggest giving up grains and legumes entirely, or to try it for 3 weeks to 3 months and listen to your body. It's a good idea to take some before and after blood tests, too, since humans make poor witnesses. It is almost impossible to avoid grains unless you prepare your own food. This means if you are a fast food devotee, it will be even harder for you to avoid. (Did you know that a certain popular Sunday-morning breakfast restaurant puts pancake batter in their omelets to make them fluffy?!)

I know of many people who appear to be healthy and swear by whole grains. This guy in "How I beat diabetes with the 'Duke diet'" says he's lost weight and gotten healthier by SWITCHING to "whole" grains. See, there's the kicker right there. He's reduced the amount of processed carbs he eats and increased his fiber content, so he's lost weight. He very likely also eats healthier overall than he used to, and he started exercising. All good things. But if he had never eaten grains and then started eating "whole" grains, his results may have been very different. The main thing is that he reduced his total calorie intake and started exercising, which caused him to lose weight, which then led to better health. At least, better health as far as he no longer has to take medicine for diabetes (but I haven't seen his blood test results).

A study published 2012 July 6 "Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity," states:
Each published experimental comparison of a diet containing grains with one excluding grains has found significant favorable metabolic effects in the grain-restricted groups, with beneficial effects large enough to render the studies adequately powered despite their small test groups. The randomized clinical trials have shown significantly greater reductions in weight and waist circumference in an ad libitum Paleolithic-style diet compared with the consensus “Mediterranean” or “Diabetes” diets and significant improvements over the Mediterranean diet in blood glucose control, independently of the superior waist-circumference reduction. All three diets emphasize whole foods, but the restriction of grains in the Paleolithic diet is a principal difference, which correlated well with the reduced waist measurement and the 20%–30% increased satiety per calorie seen in the Paleolithic-diet groups.
A Paleolithic-style diet produced significantly greater improvements in blood pressure, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profiles in a small group of healthy volunteers, with each individual participant showing improvements, indicating that these metabolic improvements occur independently of reduced caloric intake. (emphasis mine)

So, am I saying you should eliminate grains and legumes? That's not for me to say. What I am saying is that you can get all the nutrients you need from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy. I (and science) have yet to find a nutrient in grains and legumes that isn't available in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, or dairy. For myself, because of my family history with insulin issues and what eating grains does to my body, I am choosing to avoid them. I still "cheat" now and then and have a little pizza, a morsel of bread, a tiny bit of pasta when my husband "cooks dinner" (he always makes spaghetti), but my digestion and I pay for it the next day … and the next day.

Articles Cited:

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Why is Sally Sad?

Why is Sally Sad? The Standard American Diet (SAD) needs an overhaul. We're all eating what they told us in the '70s is a healthy diet (no fats, "healthy" grains, no sugar), yet the majority of Americans are considered obese. This is Sally's story. The alarm shocked Sally awake at 6:30, as it does every day. She'd just, finally, fallen back to sleep after waking up at 2 am and surfing on the Internet until around 5. She rolled over onto her side, then slowly swung her legs over the side of the bed, placing her feet onto the floor, as the back doctor told her to do. She can't just leap out of bed any more like she used to. "Boy, I really am feeling my age these days." Each of her stiff, crackly joints reminds her to take it slowly. "Patience, Spot!" she tells her dog, who is whining to go outside to potty. "You wouldn't have to hold it if you'd just use the darn dog door I put in for you!" Sally shuffles to the kitchen, puts her coffee cup under the Keurig, puts in a coffee pod, and pushes the brew button. While the coffee is "brewing," she opens the back door to the let the dog out. An hour of Internet surfing and 2 cups of coffee later, Sally is still not quite awake, but she needs to get ready for work. "No time to cook breakfast. I'll just have some Honey Nut Cheerios and skim milk. Maybe some toast with margarine, too." Sally pours herself about 2 cups of cereal and a cup of skim milk, makes a couple pieces of toast, and eats it so fast, she's burping and hiccupping her way to the shower. After showering and dressing for work, Sally heads out the door. On the way to work, she stops at the Starbucks drive-through window to get a Skinny Iced Caramel Macchiato and a coffee cake. "Ah, that should start waking me up!" Sally finishes off the coffee cake on the way to work, arrives at work just barely on time, grabs a Diet Coke, pulls up a chair, and starts to work. Sally doesn't move from her chair until 10, her usual break time. She's happy to work at a place that provides free drinks and snacks for employees. Today is Donut Day, so she grabs a lemon-filled Krispy Kreme and a Diet Coke. After a quick "pee" stop, she heads back to her desk and puts her feet on a box. They tend to swell up at the ankles lately. Finally, it's lunch time and Sally is starving! She grabs her purse and heads for the McDonald's drive through. She picks up a Big Mac, super-sized large fries, a super-sized Diet Coke, and an apple pie. Sally takes her lunch back to her desk, where she can read the news of the day while she eats her lunch. At 3 pm, Sally's been staring at numbers all day and needs a break. She nibbles on her apple pie and checks email. The apple pie made her thirsty, so she walks to the break room to get another Diet Coke. She makes a quick stop in the bathroom to pee and wonders when was the last time that she had a bowel movement. "Must be at least 3 days." She wonders if she might need to take something for that. Back at her desk, she finishes off the apple pie and the Diet Coke, and before she realizes it, it's time to go home. She stops at Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home to pick up dinner: 20-pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, and biscuits. Her family of three easily finishes off all 20 pieces of legs and thighs and all of the sides. After dinner, it's "family time." Sally, her husband, and their son sit down to watch a movie and have a bowl of "ice cream" and Diet Coke, and then they all go to bed. As she lies down in the bed, she fights gas and heart burn, and she just can't seem to relax, as always. She thinks she might need to see the doctor about that. "I know there is a prescription pill to fix that. I should talk to him about my weight, too. I just can't seem to lose weight anymore." Does this story sound all too familiar? Sally is eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) full of simple carbs and processed foods, and rarely gets any exercise. She thinks she's doing herself favors by drinking Diet Coke and "Skinny" lattes. She sits at a desk all day long, then sits in front of the TV or computer at home until she can no longer keep her eyes open--yet she has trouble falling asleep. (Could it be all of that Diet Coke?) She has stiff, aching joints, she's chronically constipated (alternating with diarrhea), suffers from insomnia, excessive flatulence, and heartburn, and gaining more and more weight every day. First, let's examine Sally's diet:
Food Calories Carbs, g. Sugar, g.
Cheerios, 2 cups

220

44

9

Milk, skim, 1 cup

86

12

12

Toast, 2 pieces, whole wheat

140

24

3

I can't believe it's not butter, 2 Tbsp

140

0

0

Starbucks Crumb cake

670

89

44

Starbucks Skinny Iced Caramel Macchiato

140

21

18

Krispy Kreme glazed lemon-filled

290

35

18

Big Mac

550

46

9

Super large fries

610

77

0

Apple pie

260

34

13

4 pieces of chicken

1000

52

0

2 servings of mashed potatoes and gravy

240

40

0

2 servings of corn with margarine

140

32

0

2 biscuits

360

46

4

5 Diet Cokes

15

0

0

2 Keurig flavored coffees

120

22

14

Breyers vanilla ice cream, 2 servings

260

28

28

Total

5241

602

172

You don't need a degree in nutrition to see how wrong Sally's diet is. But here are a few numbers to demonstrate:
  • One teaspoon of granulated sugar equals 4 grams of sugar. Even though she was drinking Diet Coke all day, Sally still ate 172 grams of sugar—that's more than 43 teaspoons of sugar! The American Health Association recommends women get less than 30 grams of sugar per day. Sally had almost 2.5 times the recommended maximum!
  • A 30-year-old, sedentary, not overweight woman should eat around 2,000 calories per day. (Older women and obese women need fewer calories; active women need slightly more.) Sally ate 5,241 calories!
  • In a 2,000-calorie diet, you should eat about 250 grams of carbohydrates (per dietaryguidelines.gov.) Primal/Paleo dieters believe that's still too many, especially if you want to lose weight, but Sally ate 602 grams of processed carbs! She had more carbs before lunch than she should eat all day.
  • Did you see any fresh fruits or vegetables in her diet? Nope. True, she had mashed potatoes and corn, but corn is actually a grain. A big salad of greens and fresh veggies would have given her diet a needed nutritional boost and she wouldn't have eaten so much of the other stuff.
What is most shocking is how few nutrients and how many toxins Sally is consuming each day. Even though Diet Coke has very few calories, carbs, or sugar, it also has no nutritional value. What it does have is caramel color, aspartame, acesulfame-K, phosphoric acid, citric acid, and caffeine. Aspartame and acesulfame-K are artificial sweeteners. They trick your body into thinking you're getting something sweet. When you consume Acesulfame-K, it stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin that you don't need. (Too much insulin leads to "insulin resistance" which can cause a whole laundry list of problems.) Aspartame contains phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. (Certain groups of people should avoid phenylalanine.) Plenty of websites discuss the pros and cons of artificial sweeteners. In Sally's case, she may as well drink regular Coke instead of the Diet Coke, but that would increase her already high sugar consumption. She would certainly be better off drinking plain water, mineral water, water with lemon, or herbal tea. (I would suggest black coffee or tea without sweetener, but I can't do that, either. Blech.) You can buy powdered glucose online or at a health food store. Glucose is a sweetener that your body actually knows what to do with. Stevia is a sweetener made from a leaf that, so far, seems to be a healthy alternative. Each time Sally has an ache or pain, she immediately heads to the medicine chest or the doctor. Many of Sally's health complaints would lessen or go away entirely if she fixed her diet. And a little exercise wouldn't hurt, either.
  • Her joints probably ache not only because of the excess weight she's putting on them, but the lack of nutrients that she's feeding them, and the lack of exercise she gives them. The most popular reason for not exercising: "I don't have time." Sally stays up late watching TV and stays in bed until the last possible moment, and feels tired from the moment she eases her body off the bed. She sits at a desk all day, and she serves herself and her family processed foods from a drive-through window. Why does she not have time to exercise? She doesn't make the time. She could take the dog for a walk after dinner, instead of watching TV and eating ice cream. She could try asking for or making a standing desk at work so that she could stand for at least part of the day. At the very least, she should get up from her chair every hour and walk around the office for 5 minutes.
  • The heartburn and constipation tell me that she may not be digesting her food properly. That can be for a variety of reasons. For one, digestion begins in the mouth. Enzymes in saliva and the process of chewing start the breakdown of the food. If Sally is gulping down her food and not taking time to chew it, she's missing out on part of the digestion process. Also, as we get older, we lose some of our digestive enzymes and she may need to take some in pill form and/or eat fermented foods like sauerkraut to help her get back on track. (Taking antacids will only make the problem worse. We need acid to digest our food.)
  • Her gut bacteria are likely overloaded with all of that sugar and processed carbs. I'd be surprised if she doesn't have a major Candida infestation. Yogurt with live cultures and probably added probiotics in pill form would help her refresh the good gut bacteria, kill off the bad bacteria (Candida), and maybe even stop her sweet tooth.
The best thing Sally can do if she wants to feel better is fix her diet. I would suggest she have a consultation with a dietician/nutritionist who can provide her with a proper diet, not just for her, but for her husband and son, too. Once she's in a routine of shopping for, preparing, serving, and eating healthy foods (and getting her husband and son to help with that), then she could look into adding more activity for herself and the family. (Starting both at once might be too overwhelming.) After a month, she'd probably lose at least 10 pounds, if not more. (Removing all of those processed foods would cause her to retain less water.) Her family could dust off their old bicycles in the garage and go for rides on the weekends. Maybe she and her son could do pushups and pullups together in the morning before school. No doubt her dog would also get healthier and lose weight, too. Maybe her son, like many, has been diagnosed with ADHD? That can be improved by eating fewer carbs and other dietary changes. In fact, some (children AND adults) get so much improvement by eliminating carbs and processed foods that they no longer need to be medicated. Most of all, Sally should put some of her surfing time to good use and do some research into what she's been eating and what she ought to be eating. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-feed beef, free-range chickens and eggs, cutting out all grains (not just processed grains) and processed foods, and taking the time to move frequently throughout her day would have her feeling like a new person in just a few months. (In the interest of full disclosure, fixing my diet and exercising more is an issue I struggle with myself. It's not easy!)

Motivators Depend on Personality Type

Are you motivated by money? Fame? Shame? What motivates you depends on your personality type. Introverts tend to be motivated internally and extroverts tend to be motivated externally. By "tend to be," I mean we're not widgets, and it's not just black or white. Many variables affect motivation, so what I am saying here does not apply to every single human being.

Are you an Introverted Ivy or an Extroverted Evy?

I am very introverted. I am not motivated by other people's impressions of me. I am motivated by my own goals and what I think is right, just, or what I'm "supposed" to do. I go to work every day and do my job well, because that's what I get paid to do. No one is harder on me than I am on myself if I'm not doing a good job. I'm not motivated by a boss who constantly tells me I'm wonderful or gives me awards. I'm not motivated by coworkers patting me on the back or nominating me for awards. I am, however, quite motivated by continued employment, annual pay raises, bonuses, and paid vacations!

How are we motivated differently?

Programmers and writers (I am a technical writer at a software company) tend to be introverted. We work better alone, without external distractions and noise, so that we can focus on our work. Coding and writing take uninterrupted focus. Interruptions mean starting over from the top or sloppy work. Stopping work for an hour or so to attend a meeting is an unwelcome interruption—unless the meeting is directly related to what we're working on. Sales and Marketing professional are typically extroverts. They need to talk to customers/potential customers, communicate with other people about trade shows, communicate with coworkers about what they are doing, and so on. Attending meetings IS the work; skipping a meeting to write a report is an unwelcome interruption. Extroverts are motivated by external forces: awards, bonuses, commissions, and the constant praise and admiration of their bosses and coworkers. "She's so quiet!" is considered an insult to an extrovert, but admirable to an introvert.

Can introverts work on a team?

Managing a team of introverts and extroverts together requires more effort and thought than a team of only extroverts or only introverts. You can't just say "Here, do this" if only half the team (or less) is motivated by the project's success. Getting everyone to cooperate as a team requires that you know what motivates each person on the team so that you can offer them the proper reward(s) for successful completion of the task.
  • If the project requires each individual's solitary contribution, the introverts on the team will be successful.
  • If the project requires that one individual lead the project, or requires a public spectacle of some kind, the extroverts will shine.
If there are multiple extroverted people on the team, they will compete to lead the group. The introverts on the team will follow whomever assumes that position. Assigning someone to be the lead can be a recipe for disaster if you don't chose the most extroverted member of the team. (Even in a team of 100% introverts, you can be sure there is one who is the least introverted of all.) With extroverts especially, you need to provide clear instructions as to the goal of the project and ensure that they understand. Without clear instructions, your extroverted team members will take that as a challenge to see how far "over the top" they can go and may misunderstand the goal of the project entirely.

What does it all mean, Basil?*

Most personalities fall somewhere between extrovert and introvert. Extreme introverts and extreme extroverts are not comfortable in the other's realm, but usually as adults we learn to function (still uncomfortably) in the opposite world. Whether you are a manager trying to get your team to work together more effectively, or one of the employees on that team, pay attention to and use what motivates THEM, not what motivates you.
  • If you're an extroverted manager, understand that your introverted employees might find your "fun team-building contest" a waste of time that could be used actually working.
  • If you're an introverted manager, understand that your extroverted employees would probably enjoy a Friday evening, after-work  happy hour, but your introverted employees might consider it "working overtime."
* From the movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

Which is "better," extroverted or introverted?

Neither personality type is "better" than the other; we're just different, with different needs and different motivators. Before you criticize the employee, coworker, spouse, sibling, child, friend, or neighbor who thinks, talks, or behaves differently than you do, consider why it bothers you so much. Forcing opposites to work together without the proper motivation does not bring good results. If you need your team's or a person's cooperation, think about what you can do to motivate them to want to cooperate. You might think of it as manipulation, which it is, but it is manipulation with positive results for everyone. If you can change your behavior or thoughts, the other person is more likely to cooperate with you. After all, the only person you can truly change is yourself. This web page provides, in a table format, a partly humorous, partly serious look at the differences between extroverts and introverts. Here are some examples:
WORD Extrovert's Definition Introvert's Definition
Extrovert, n. A nice, normal, sociable person. Never surprises you with anything weird. A boisterous person who may be very nice, but who is somewhat exhausting to spend time with. Usually not too deep, but fun.
Good manners, n. Making sure people aren't left all by themselves. Filling in any silences in a conversation. Not bothering people, unless it's necessary, or they approach you. (Sometimes you can bother people you know well, but make sure they aren't busy first.)
Internet, n. Another medium for advertising. A place where geeks with no life hang out. A way to meet other introverts. You don't have to go out, and writing allows you to think before just blurting something out.
Introvert, n. One of those who likes to read. Moody loners. One who shows a perfectly natural restraint and caution when meeting new people. One who appreciates solitude.

Literacy

"The idea that we have undergraduates who don’t read books distresses me. Of course, I know that they do read. …  They read in print and electronically. They read articles. They read blog posts. They exchange these items on Facebook and elsewhere. But reading a book, even a popular novel, requires some measure of sustained attention, and reading a serious book requires concentration and intellectual effort to comprehend and absorb the material. --  from http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/2012/01/send_me_a_man_who_reads.html

We aren't born knowing how to read, but we are born knowing how to speak. Babies learn their local language, including grammar, syntax, and even word choice by listening to people around them talk. If you "goo-goo" and "gaa-gaa" to your baby, that's the language he'll learn. If you speak to him in proper sentences using "grown up" words, those are the words he'll learn to use. But that doesn't mean he's literate.

Literacy requires the ability to read. It wasn't until mass-produced books became available that literacy became important. Gutenberg starting printing on his press in 1436, but printing didn't really go mainstream until the 1800s when iron presses were operated with steam power. At first, illustrations were a large part of the book (because the average person was not literate), and group reading out loud was the norm. You didn't read a Bible passage and interpret it using your own view of the world; a priest told you what you should believe.

Unfortunately, many people in the US today, still, are only functionally literate. That means they can read just enough to get by. For example, immigrants and children of immigrants in the US are often considered functionally illiterate because of language barriers. They speak their native language at home, and then are expected to speak English in school and at work. My father quit school after the 8th grade so that he could work to help take care of his family. He was a hard worker and a talented artist, but I rarely saw him reading anything, not even the newspaper.

Most parents expect the public school system to teach their children to read. I'm shocked when I hear people say, for example, their child is in first grade and still can't read! Reading to your children early and often, and letting them "catch" you reading, is the best way to teach your child to read.

Give your kids a good reason to learn how to read, and they will. When my oldest son, Alex, was between 2 and 3 years old, my husband worked as a field service rep. He was home about 1 week out of every 4. He liked to play a computer game called "King's Quest" that required the player to read something on the screen, then type a response or make his avatar do what the text said to do. Alex loved to play that game with his dad, and when his dad was out of town, he wanted me to play. I was working full time, going to school part time, and raising a 2 year old basically on my own, so I often told him he would have to play by himself. (Besides, I had no idea how to play the game.) He would cry and beg me to play, and I would often read to him what the screen said, but then I would tell him, "If you want to play that game when Daddy isn't here, you'll have to learn how to read." And that's exactly what he did!

Before Alex was 4, he could read on his own. One night we were at the airport waiting for his dad and there was a newspaper on the seat next to me. Alex stood facing the seat, leaning on it with his arms folded, reading the paper. A man nearby chuckled and said, "That's so cute; it looks like he's actually reading it." I was so offended that he would think my child couldn't read! I didn't realize at the time that reading at such a young age was not the norm. But why is it not the norm? My youngest son, Jake, didn't learn to read nearly as early, but certainly was reading by Kindergarten. He had three people helping him, so he never had a reason to learn to read (or walk) as early as Alex did.

There is a term in psychology called "Learned Helplessness," which is a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation. If someone is always doing things for you, you never learn to do it on your own. For example, suppose you ask your son to put away his toys, but he takes longer than you want or doesn't do it as well as you want, so you do it yourself. Or you see that he's struggling to read the cereal box before pouring himself a bowl, so you grab the box out of his hand and pour the cereal for him, because you're in a hurry. Eventually he learns that no matter what he does, it's not good enough for you, so why should he even try? And that carries over to his school work and, eventually, his adult life—unless he figures out that it's not his problem, it's yours. (The problem is that you're not patient.) Patience can be very difficult, especially when you're watching your child struggle to learn something.

When I would read to my kids at bedtime, I would point to a word and they would read the word instead of me. At first, it was words like "and" "if" "cat" and so on, eventually working up to the entire sentence, and then the whole story. You have to be patient, though, and let your child struggle with sounding it out and making mistakes, waiting for them to figure it out. (Meanwhile, you want to rush through the story and put him to bed, so you can have "me" time.) Of course, you have to also provide him with the tools to figure things out on his own, but if you always take over, he'll never figure it out. Give him small achievements, eventually building up to bigger achievements, so that he knows he can do it without your help.

Knowing how to do a thing and wanting to do it don't always go hand in hand. If your child hates to read, find out why that is. Maybe the problem isn't that he can't read, but that he'd rather be outside playing soccer than inside reading. Perhaps if he reads a chapter of a book on soccer skills tonight, he can go outside and practice those skills tomorrow. Maybe there is a movie that he wants to go see. Give him the book of that movie to read. Maybe what he's reading is way too easy or way too hard for his skill level. Don't just hand him a book to read. Sit with him and have him read it to you—you'll see then if it's too hard or too easy. And ask questions about the book to strengthen his reading comprehension skills.

Whatever the reason he's not reading is, work together to find the solution. Reading is not instinctive, it's a skill. Like any skill your children learn, it takes time (yours and theirs!) and lots of practice and patience. Don't just expect the public school system to raise your child for you—you might not like the results!  ‎

We also have a problem of technical illiteracy in the US, for which technology itself is partially to blame. (More of that "learned helplessness" I mentioned earlier.) But that's a topic for another article. "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." -- Alvin Toffler. (Alvin didn't consider the part of learning that requires you to be able to read.)

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