Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

As a parent, the time you spend with your child—reading aloud, chatting, and interacting in countless ways—is pivotal in helping them develop and thrive as a reader, writer, and thinker. From teaching your child the alphabet to playing rhyming games, you instill crucial knowledge and skills through fun, playful time together. Best of all, it builds your relationship, too—and can even help you feel happier and more fulfilled.

That’s why each month we share a special list of featured reads and literacy activities. Expect fun seasonal reading recommendations, complemented with activity tutorials and free printables for an all-out story time experience with your little one.

Here are some topics to delve into with your child this month:

Picture Books for Starting School

The time is fast approaching: The sound of new zippers rings out and the smell of sharpened pencils fills the air. It’s back to school! Whether it’s your child’s first year in school or they’re an old pro, a new school year can be daunting. But don’t worry! There’s something that can help ease their worries and spark some enthusiasm for their upcoming year—books.

Early childhood educator Chrysta Naron recommends a selection of picture books that help kids get ready to start school. These books are special because they cover a wide range of first-day-of-school experiences. In their pages, we meet children just starting out, moving from a new country, expressing their creativity, and celebrating their names (not to mention an adorable cat and one very stressed-out pigeon). Whatever your little one’s circumstances, these picture books about starting school can help you guide your child into a less-stressed and happier beginning to the school year.

Funny Kids’ Books 

What’s black and white and “read” all over? 

Contributor Andrea Hunt’s roundup of funny books for kids, of course. (You didn’t guess that, did you?) August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day, so indulge in the healing power of laughter. Plus, discover all the benefits of rib-tickling kids’ reads, from making reading together more fun and encouraging reluctant readers to setting the scene for learning and helping kids regulate emotions or navigate challenges.

Then, if you and your child are up for a creative challenge, build on your comical story time by working together to write and illustrate your own funny tale. Or, for pre-writers or reluctant writers/artists, keep it light and just engage in some humorous oral storytelling.

Menus, Signs, Clothes, & More (Seriously)

If you’re on vacation, keep an eye out for ways to get in some reading practice with your kids. Read Maya’s post on working literacy into travel with kids and check out our roundup of educational road trip games for kids.

If you’re not on vacation, don’t worry! You can carve out a few moments in the evening or over the weekend to do some literacy-rich activities with your child. See Maya’s evidence-based tips for maximizing story time to get the most out of the time you have available to read with your child.

And remember that you can always fit reading into other activities, from deciphering labels at the grocery store to following recipes together. Check out our collection of Read-with-Me Recipes for some educational quality time making kid-friendly snacks and meals.

In fact, you can even use writing on clothing to help kids learn to read—something to keep in mind during back-to-school shopping. See? You really can work in literacy learning to everyday moments with your kids, no matter how busy or tired you may be.

Story Time Activity: S’More Reading

Smores Consonant Blends Spelling Game

Whip up some s’mores to illustrate a sweet & simple lesson in sounding out words (or add a dash of learning to your campfire treat). Use icing to write letters on each piece, then eat your word. Or do a sugar- & mess-free version with paper! Tips in our s’mores reading game tutorial.

New to MayaSmart.com?

Welcome! It’s lovely to have you here. I’m Maya, an author, literacy advocate, and mom. On this site, I publish articles, advice, book recommendations, and activities for busy parents. Through it all, my goal is to help parents like you feel equipped and confident to support your children in reading. Let’s start by understanding what you bring to the effort—your unique superpower.

Find your raise-a-reader superpower now.