One of the greatest gifts you can give your baby is a love of words and reading. This is a gift you can start working on now, while you're still pregnant. Defining yourselves as a family that reads regularly will set the course for reading readiness after your baby arrives. Here are some ways to foster family literacy and raise a lifelong reader.

Set up a daily reading time for yourself. Find a place away from distraction, and be sure you have good lighting and a comfortable chair with plenty of room for a small person to join you later. Enjoy reading each day, and the habit will be well established by the time you have a small partner to share that time.

Find your old storybooks from your own childhood. You'll be surprised by how many of the stories and pictures will bring up strong memories. Some books will seem dated; some will seem timeless. Decide which ones you want to share. Talk to your own parents or other relatives who read to you and say thanks. Now you're ready to carry on the reading traditions of your family.

Put books on your baby shower gift lists and registries. Your friends may give your baby the lasting stories that were important to them or to their children. It's a ready-made review service for children's literature, as the best books are the ones that are loved the most.

Take a house tour from a reader's perspective. In a home that supports reading, every room should have books in it. Does yours? If a child grows up surrounded by books, he is more likely to make them a regular part of his life. Are you a good model for this immersion pattern?

Ask about reading and story time as you visit day care providers and centers, or interview care providers who will come into your home. See whether reading is a priority and a regular part of their planned care. Make sure everyone understands that you think reading is important. You'll want to consider many issues when picking child care, and reading and language activities should be on your list of things to ask about as you make the decision.

Write your baby's daily story. Start a book that tells what you do each day in the last part of your pregnancy. A detailed description of one event or a short observation, perhaps with a sketch, will be meaningful to your child later as she reads what you did together in the days and weeks before she was born. Children love their own story more than any other, so start writing it now. Before you know it you'll have to begin sharing authorship with a toddler eager to have you take her dictation as she narrates her days.