Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Welcome to the July edition of Smart Story Time!

Keeping new books in the mix keeps reading time fresh for your child, as well as continually exposing them to new subjects and vocabulary. That’s why we curate some of our best recommendations for diverse kids’ books around timely topics each month. We hope this inspires you to find some awesome new-to-you reads for your child at your local library or independent bookstore

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

Picture Books for Fourth of July

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 the bonding by helping your child create their very own kids’ bill of rights. Bonus: We also have a firework literacy craft to help your child practice tricky words while making some cute Fourth of July-themed art.

Kids’ Books by & 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 activisit, South African president, and Nobel prize winner Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. 

Introduce your kids to this towering figure of modern history 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 for readers of any age who can appreciate a good fable, there’s a collection of 32 classic, and some newer, 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.

Picture Books about Your Child’s Interests

MayaSmart.com is your one-stop-shop for raising a reader. Check out our other kids’ book lists and articles. In addition to bringing books into your reading time that tackle timely topics or important subjects, be sure to follow their interests, as well. If your kid loves science or animals—read about those topics. Following their interests keeps them engaged and helps you build a responsive relationship with your child. 
We’ll be back next month with the next installment of Smart Story Time. Meanwhile, feel free to message me with requests for future posts, book recommendations, or just to say hi!

What are you reading with your child this month? Scroll down to connect on social media & let me know!