Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

MayaSmart.com is your one-stop-shop for raising a reader, from evidence-based early literacy advice to fun activities that support literacy learning and awesome free educational printables. And, of course, one of the best ways to raise a reader is to read to your child (and talk about books with them, even when they’re babies—learn more in our post about how to get the most out of your read-aloud time). That’s why we publish lots of kids’ book lists and book reviews with suggestions of great reads for various ages and interests. 

Young children love hearing the same book over and over and over (you knew that!), but regularly mixing in different books to your shared reading will keep it fresh for you and them, plus introduce them to more words and concepts. To make it easy for you to find excellent new-to-you picture books to share with your child right now, we’ve curated some of our best recommendations for diverse picture books that are extra relevant this month. We include links to Bookshop.org so you can order them from independent booksellers, but remember that reading to your child doesn’t have to break the bank: Your local library should carry these titles, too!

So, without further ado, here’s what to read with your picture-book-loving child this month:

Books about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is Jan. 17, and there are hundreds of books dedicated to exploring his life, dreams, and work to help you mark the occasion. Among picture books alone, approaches to King’s story include cradle-to-grave biographies, roundups of his famous speeches and quotes, and deep dives into stories of the March on Washington, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, his memorial in Washington, D.C., and more. So how’s a parent to choose which books are best to explore with their child? Read our post about how to find the right books for your child about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and the American history it so vividly illustrates (and get some recommendations of specific titles, too).

Books about Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is coming up on the first of February! So this month is a good time to stock up on a few picture books to teach your child about this tradition that’s important to so many cultures or prepare for your own festivities. Your library should have lots of options, and we’ve also got you covered with recommendations of some favorites, as well as activities designed to bring the ideas and vocabulary from your reading to life. Our red-envelopes story time activity and Chinese zodiac story time activity both pair a Lunar New Year picture book with a learning project to do with your child. Our super-popular storytelling Lunar New Year lion puppet activity also includes a couple of book recommendations, and is a fantastic pre-literacy project with kids of any age. You can also build on your Lunar New Year reading by making a Lunar New Year fortune teller

Bright Brown Baby by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This collection of five poems by New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrator Brian Pinkney just came out this month. So snag your copy and snuggle up with your little one to enjoy these joyful rhymes. When your child goes down for a nap, you can read up on how rhymes and poems for babies and kids help prepare them for reading and writing. If your little one is old enough to play a simple matching game, you can also create a DIY rhyming card game to build on the book and further their understanding of rhyming, a key literacy skill.

Reading widely and frequently with your child is crucial to set them up for success in school and life, as well as a lovely way to introduce them to new concepts. In addition to bringing books into your reading time that tackle timely topics or subjects you want them to know about, be sure to follow their interests, as well. If your kid loves horses or sports—go to town on books about that subject (among others!). If your kid is curious about science or loves animals—ditto. Following their interests keeps them engaged and helps you build a responsive relationship with your child. You also won’t go wrong sharing some books you love or titles about topics you care about, as your child will catch your enthusiasm. (If you really want to get your little one to dig into some new reads, dress up a personalized book grab basket to introduce the fresh titles.) 

We’ll be back next month with our guide for what to read to your child in February. Meanwhile, go ahead and browse around the site for more tips and tutorials, or message Maya with your questions. We’re so happy to have you here!

What are you and your child reading this month?