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:

Fourth of July Picture Books

For Independence Day, contributor and early childhood educator Chrysta Naron recommends a selection of wonderful picture books that explore the beauty and diversity of America

From We the Kids, which explains the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, to artist Faith Ringgold’s We Came to America, this list shares impactful kids’ titles to help you and your child celebrate, contemplate, and converse about this nation.

Then extend the learning and bonding with a kids’ bill of rights activity and firework literacy craft.

Picture Books About the Olympics

With the Olympics coming up again this summer, it’s a great moment to engage kids with inspiring stories about and by Olympians past and present. Contributing writers Courtney Runn and Chrysta Naron have curated an epic list of summer Olympics picture books that are worth sharing with your child.

You’ll find a diverse selection of fun reads that impart lessons of teamwork, resilience, and discipline, as well as exploring history and current affairs through the lens of athletics. These stories will inspire kids to dream big and get them excited to watch the Games with you.

Kids’ Books about Nelson Mandela

For parents seeking to teach their children about history through the true stories of people who’ve worked to shape it for the better, it’s hard to imagine a more inspiring subject than anti-apartheid activist, South African president, and Nobel prize winner Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. And, with Mandela’s birthday on July 18, this month is a good moment to introduce your kids to this towering figure of modern history.

You can do that through three children’s books produced by Mandela himself and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. For younger readers and listeners, there’s a picture book adaptation of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. For middle-schoolers and comic lovers, there’s a large-format graphic novel that recounts the story of Nelson Mandela and the country he served. And then there’s a crowd-pleasing collection of 32 African folktales selected by Mandela—each accompanied by a whimsical, colorful illustration.

Picture Books about Birds & Nature

Take advantage of summer by pairing some books about the great outdoors with outings to explore it together with your child. (After all, spending time outside in natural green spaces provides major benefits for raising readers.) 

To begin, try this bird walk activity for preschoolers created by birder and conservationist Susan Gadamus—you’ll find a number of recommended picture books at the end of the post. Then, for more picture books about nature, take a look at writer Karen Williams’s list of picture books celebrating water and author Tulani Thomas’s favorite eco-friendly reads for kids.

Story Time Activity: Kids’ Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights

Kids will love creating their very own Bill of Rights that focuses on what they can do rather than what they can’t. This family Bill of Rights activity is so fun, they won’t even notice all the incredible learning going on.