“Reading is such an important gift.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Susan and her husband moved to Bainbridge Island, Wash., when she was 29 to raise their daughter. They lived in the same house for 36 years on a beautiful, wooded acre.

But as retirement approached, they wanted to be somewhere warm and urban. Susan had traveled to Nashville several times for work as the director of interiors at Nordstrom Corporate. She brought her husband and daughter down with her and the next thing she knew, they were purchasing a condo in the Gulch to set up for retirement.

“It’s just such a dichotomy from where we were,” she says.

In college, Susan decided she wanted to be a teacher, specifically a reading specialist. But she switched gears to follow her dream of being an interior designer. After they moved to Nashville, she decided to find that passion again for early literacy. She did some research and stumbled upon Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee, a literacy program—in partnership with United Way of Greater Nashville, the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation and the Dollywood Foundation—that delivers an age-appropriate, high-quality book each month straight to children’s mailboxes at no cost to families.

She reached out to ask how she could help, and that’s when she started reading with Read, Baby Read!, an ILMT initiative where volunteers read to infants and toddlers at various early learning center sites throughout Nashville. She’d read twice a month at King’s Daughter’s Child Development Center and once a month at St. Luke’s Community House.

And introducing books to kids early in life is so important; it’s a critical window of opportunity for learning words and language. Children who are read to regularly and early in life are better prepared for school, and 90 percent of physical brain development occurs in the first three years of life, when a baby forms more than one million new neural connections per second.

“It’s just the best experience ever,” Susan says. “If you can’t read, you’re lost. It’s just such an important gift to give to children.”

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