Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Summer is here! And while kids may rejoice at the prospect of sleeping in, exploring the beach, or going on a trip, the reality for parents is that changes in school and child care routines can take a toll. Lazy days are often few and far between for caregivers who are ever on call to shepherd the health, safety, and development of little ones.

That’s why I’ve compiled a digital Summer Survival Kit for parents and caregivers who pre-order my book, Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six, forthcoming from Avery/Penguin Random House in July. 

This bonus is available exclusively to people who pre-order the book. You’ll also get early access to a bunch of other useful resources and freebies for raising readers, designed to support the action plan outlined in the book. Once you order your copy, complete the form below to get instant access to the freebies.

The Summer Survival Kit was designed to make it easier to ride the waves with your kids this summer. It contains a curated digital library of tips and summer activities for kids—along with cheat sheets and checklists of what you’ll need to plan a fun, easy, cheap, and educational summer. Inside you’ll find:

  • Recommendations of music, audio stories, and podcasts to navigate your days
  • Conversation prompts to encourage the back-and-forth exchanges kids need to build brain connections, vocabulary, and knowledge
  • A list of simple, inexpensive, easy-to-find, reusable, and adaptable tools to enrich daily life and learning
  • A roundup of board games that are as educational as they are fun
  • A bucket list of activities to make the most of your summer

I hope these activities bring you and your family joy as you grow and learn together!

Preorder Receipt

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More about Reading for Our Lives

When my daughter went off to school, I was shocked to discover that a good education in America is a long shot, in ways that few parents fully appreciate. Our current approach to literacy offers too little, too late, and attempting to play catch-up when kids get to kindergarten can no longer be our default strategy. The brain architecture for reading develops rapidly during infancy, and early language experiences are critical to building it. That means parents’ work as children’s first teachers begins from day one too—and we need deeper knowledge to play our positions.

Reading for Our Lives challenges the bath-book-bed mantra and the idea that reading aloud to our kids is enough to ensure school readiness. Instead, it gives parents easy, immediate, and accessible ways to nurture language and literacy development from the start. Through personal stories, historical accounts, scholarly research, and practical tips, this book presents the life-and-death urgency of reading, investigates inequity in its achievement, and illuminates a path to a true, transformative education for all.

In the book, you’ll find:

  • A clear roadmap. Find out what to expect and focus on at each stage and age, from infancy to early elementary.
  • An understanding of foundational literacy skills. Learn how basic skills affect long-term success, and how to introduce and strengthen them with warmth and compassion.
  • Easy action items. Seamlessly add literacy-rich habits into your daily family life with no special tools, apps, or materials required.
  • Evidence-supported tactics. Discover routines, conversation starters, activities, and more that help make regular days with small kids more educational and enjoyable.

Praise for Reading for Our Lives

I have rarely had a more visceral reaction to a book than I had in reading Maya Smart’s Reading for Our Lives: I was, in turn, frightened, angered, reassured, and finally, inspired. I was frightened because I thought back on all the things I missed about reading while raising my kids that she expertly details here. I was angry because she offers an expert roadmap for navigating the tough terrain of literacy for our children. And I was inspired because her book is so eloquent and easy to understand as she leads us in the crucial work of providing our children their best futures because they are truly literate. This is a brilliant, timely and life-changing book that is worth far more to you and your children than what it costs to read Maya Smart’s illuminating words and soak in her transformative wisdom.

Michael Eric Dyson co-author of Unequal: A Story of America

An amazing book for perhaps the most important job parents have: getting our kids to love to read.

Ryan Holiday, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Daily Stoic, The Obstacle Is the Way, and Ego Is the Enemy

A must-read for any parent! This exceptional book walks you through not only the why of reading to your child but the way. The scientifically grounded, step-by-step insights outlined here can heighten both your and your child’s joy at learning one of life’s most important skills: reading.

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers

Reading for Our Lives is the book to turn to when nurturing critical readers. Like reading, Smart’s book is for our children’s lives. Don’t miss out, because our kids must not miss out on the life-giving power of reading.

Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist

I anticipate a revolution of reading readiness once parents get their hands on this book! In Reading for Our Lives, Maya Smart puts her faith in parents as the key participants in leading our youngest learners into literacy. No more tears over tedious workbooks or relentless drilling. Instead, Smart offers countless, actionable tips and practices to be used at home. Smart rightly claims that learning to read is of urgent, liberating importance for today’s children. Preparing them at home so that they are equipped for school is a gift any parent can easily give their children, with Smart’s book in hand. I’ll be recommending Reading for Our Lives for years to come. It’s the best book about learning to read I’ve ever read!

Julie Bogart, creator and founder of Brave Writer, author of The Brave Learner and Raising Critical Thinkers