Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Happy December and welcome to this month’s edition of Smart Story Time! 

We love sharing ideas and inspiration for fresh reading material for you and your child, as well as ways to mix literacy learning into your days together. From exposing them to print and teaching them letter sounds to introducing them to new subjects, vocabulary, and ideas, your interactions are crucial to helping them blossom as a reader. Enjoy!

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

The Real Santa by Nancy Redd

What does Santa Claus really look like? Nancy Redd’s beautiful children’s book, The Real Santa, features one boy’s quest to find out. This volume, with its very special take on representation and its joyful spirit, is our top pick for Christmas reads for kids this year. It would make a great holiday gift, but don’t wait to share it with your child. You could get a copy at your local library to read aloud and save your own brand-new edition for Christmas morning.

Be sure to check out Maya’s chat with Nancy Redd about the book, the importance of representation in kids’ stories, and the behind-the-scenes process of creating a picture book. Nancy shares so much about how she came up with the story, what it means to her, and how a children’s author creates the books we all love to read.

Picture Books for the Holiday Season

Your local librarian or independent bookstore can help you find a wonderful and diverse selection of kids’ books related to any holiday that you want to celebrate or teach your kids about. You’ll find too many fabulous Christmas and Hanukkah books for us to list—plus a growing number of quality titles about Kwanzaa to help you mark or learn about this seven-day celebration with roots in the harvest festivals of Africa.

To get you started, though, early childhood educator Chrysta Naron put together a lovely list of Christmas and Kwanzaa books (plus one New Year’s read) by black authors, and Kwanzaa educator Jessica “Culture Queen” Hebron recommends five lovely Kwanzaa picture books to check out. Happy Holidays!

Holiday Recipes for Kids

Our Read With Me Recipe series features printable recipes that are easy for kids to make and read. Simple words and short sentences in an easy font set your little one up for reading success. Just print the recipe PDF and read it together as you cook. (We also share tips for using the recipes to maximize reading and learning in each recipe post.)

The idea is to make it easy for you to mix reading and writing into everyday life with your kids. This kind of “everyday literacy” is key to raising thriving readers. This holiday season, try our DIY christmas ornament recipe and latke recipe for kids.

Anything You & Your Child Love for Jolabokaflod

In Iceland, there’s a wonderful holiday tradition called Jolabokaflod, which means “Christmas book flood.” It’s all about giving, receiving, and reading books as a way to celebrate. Read all about it in this Jolabokaflod article and get tips for starting your family’s own book flood tradition.

Then browse our Kids Books section for ideas of great reads to add to your flood. We’ve got reading lists tailored to all kinds of interests, from sports to science, animals to humor to fantasy and imagination, and so much more.

We also have lists designed to support development of key literacy knowledge and social-emotional skills. For example, you’ll find recommended kids’ reads selected to foster body positivity and self-love and empathy, as well as to help kids deal with grief. On the skills side, you’ll find ABC books, titles that build print awareness in the youngest listeners, and picture books about starting school, among others.

We’ll be back next month with a new iteration of Smart Story Time, redesigned for the new year!

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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.