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 learn to read 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. And the best part is that it all builds your relationship, too—and can even help you feel happier and more fulfilled.

That’s why we’ve developed Smart Story Time, a monthly feature designed to make it easy to find new ways to read and connect with young kids around literacy. Each month, we’ll be sharing a mix of featured reads and literacy activities. Expect fun seasonal reading recommendations that are ideal for reading aloud, complemented with activity tutorials and free printables for an all-out story time experience with your little one.


Got recommendations or requests for a future Smart Story Time? Message Maya!

Featured Books for Kids: Martin Luther King, Jr. Picture Books

There are hundreds of books dedicated to exploring the life, dreams, and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So how’s a parent to choose which books are best to explore with their child?

Read Maya’s article, Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. with These 9 Thought-Provoking Books, to get tips for finding the right-fit book to deepen your child’s knowledge of King’s legacy and the American history it so vividly illustrates. You’ll also find specifics about some great kids’ reads. Or check out one of these top picks:

  • Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
  • A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein

Featured Reading Activity: Word Snowmen

Whether it snows in your area or not, nothing says winter like making snowpeople! So for this month’s featured activity, we’re making paper “snow” families that teach kids reading skills and make cute decorations for your home. All you need for this easy activity is 15 minutes and some basic materials.

Early childhood educator Chrysta Naron created this cute winter craft to teach kids word families—groups of rhyming words that share the same ending (both the spelling and pronunciation). For example, the “-op” rhyming word family includes words like hop, top, and pop. Word families help kids learn spelling patterns that make it easier to read and write new, related words.

Snowman Word Families_09

Activity: Make Word Family Snowmen

Book Pairing: Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin, Snowballs by Lois Ehlert, or any favorite snow-related book. Look for word families as you read!

Featured Printables: Family Reading Inspiration

If any of your New Year’s resolutions involve encouraging more reading around your house or building more connection and joyful special memories with your kids, you’ll want to check out these special printables designed to inspire family reading.

(Note: If you’re not a member already, you’ll need to sign up for the FREE MayaSmart.com VIP Vault of resources for Very Intentional Parents. Don’t worry—it takes two minutes and doesn’t cost a cent!)

Family Reading Journal

Family Reading Journal: Create a sweet record of what your kids love to read with this free printable reading journal. Inside, you’ll find a cover ready for coloring and journal pages with room to jot down your reflections, note favorite quotes, and rate each book. 

Inspirational Bookmarks

Inspirational Bookmarks: Celebrate the power of reading with 10 free printable bookmarks, each featuring a parent-author reflecting on the joys of family reading.

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.

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