Words to Live By: Dana L. Suskind

Words to Live By features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.


May 3, 2022

Dr. Dana L. Suskind

Dana Suskind, MD, has been an inspiration and guiding light to Book Harvest’s work. She is the founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Center for Early Learning at the University of Chicago, work that is focused on helping parents leverage their power as their children’s brain architects. She is also the author of more than 45 scientific publications and the bestselling book Thirty Million Words: Building A Child’s Brain. Dr. Suskind just released her latest book, Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise, written with award-winning science writer Lydia Denworth. The publication of the book coincides with Dr. Suskind’s launch of the Parent Nation movement, a campaign to engage communities across the country to lift up the power, voice, and support for parents to ensure the wellbeing of all children and families.


Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?

I’ve always loved biographies, even as a child. Maybe because my mom was a social worker and my dad was a pediatrician, they made sure I was surrounded by books and stories of real people working to improve the world. But I also remember devouring those stories and taking great comfort in knowing the characters really existed.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I loved reading as a child. We moved a lot—my family and I even lived in Thailand for a while—so books were a constant companion and comfort, especially when I was just getting to know another new place.

What book should everybody read before they turn 18?

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

What kind of books are on your bookshelf?

Mostly non-fiction. A combination of U.S. History, behavioral economics, the neuroscience of early childhood, public policy. I’m lots of fun at a dinner parties!

What are you reading currently?

AARP: America’s Largest Interest Group and Its Impact, by Christine Day.

What is your favorite place to read? Pre- and/or during the pandemic?

Any place that’s quiet! Which was easier to find pre-pandemic. During the height of the lockdown, my husband and I had my parents and all 8 of our kids living with us under one roof. It was lovely and such a blessing. But also very loud!

Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?

So many! I’m going to have to go with Jo March from Little Women.

If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?

Jane Addams, Harper Lee and Isabel Wilkerson

What are the children in your life currently reading?

Their school work, I hope! Our youngest is a junior in high school and our oldest is 22, so much of my kids’ reading takes place in their own time and spaces. My youngest daughter, Amelie, is actually a budding author now, though! She wrote a delightful children’s book last November called Matzo Ball-Wonton Thanksgiving, about our family’s non-traditional traditions. It was a COVID project that turned out so beautifully.

Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” by J.R.R. Tolkien.


Thank you to Dr. Suskind for taking the time to thoughtfully answer our questions! You can read more about her work and Parent Nation at parentnation.org.

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