Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Spotify tells me that “Level Up” by Ciara was my most-played song in 2022. That’s fitting, given what a banner year it was in my work to empower parents as their children’s first teachers.

The highlights: I launched a new website. Published my first book. Recorded my first audiobook. Went on a book tour. Made my national television debut. Returned to speaking on stages after being grounded by the pandemic.

But the deeper story of the heaps of effort, doubt, discomfort, frustration, and grit it took to forge those accomplishments is the real triumph. One day I’ll write a book about it, but for now suffice to say that as much as 2022 was a great year, it was not a perfect, easy, or predictable one. Each month I had to push myself to do things I hadn’t done before and seldom felt ready to do. I had to share my ideas on a larger scale and risk mistakes, misunderstandings, and criticism. I had to find ways to have a bigger impact in the world while still holding things down for my family at home.

I took the leap, though, and the payoff was helping thousands of parents gain the knowledge and confidence they need to nurture, teach, and advocate for kids on the road to reading. So, in the spirit of celebration and gratitude, here’s a list of my favorite accomplishments in 2022. I share these milestones with you because you’ve been a part of all of these wins. I’m encouraged to know that people out there are reading my blog posts, newsletters, and book. Together, we can create a world where every child can thrive as a reader.

Launched a new and improved MayaSmart.com.

My team and I published more than 100 blog posts and newsletters in 2022 and, thanks to a website redesign, we were able to get the content in front of a much wider audience. I worked with GLIDE Design to reimagine and build a new MayaSmart.com from the ground up and could not be more pleased with the results.

The new site marries compelling visuals with smart functionality and architecture to help parents quickly find the resources they need to support their children. And its search engine optimization has led to increased website traffic as well. Thousands of parents are now able to find and enjoy the free family literacy resources that we release on the site each week and sign up to receive weekly reminders to keep nurturing, teaching, and advocating for reading.

Fun fact: Both our most-visited book roundup and most-visited how-to post of the year focused on teaching children the alphabet.

Returned to in-person speaking.

I take every opportunity available to encourage people to invest in a strong start for all our children, so they can thrive in school and life. And the importance of intentional, ongoing support for families with young children is even more urgent given pandemic-related academic losses and trauma.

So I was particularly honored to share this message with hundreds of women during a keynote speech at the 2022 Women United Bruncheon of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. It was my first in-person speaking appearance since the pandemic began, and I followed it up with book talks across the country, including in D.C., Austin, Chattanooga, Santa Fe, and Louisville. 

If you’re interested in bringing me to your neck of the words, see details at mayasmart.com/speaking.

Published Reading for Our Lives.

My first book, Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six, launched in August. In it, I share my journey to raise a reader, explain how reading unfolds over a child’s life, and give parents research-based strategies for fostering it from birth onwards.

The book is also available in an audio format, which gives parents a way to consume the content on the go amid busy days with little children. I’m so thankful for the enthusiastic ratings and reviews that are rolling in from readers.

If you read and enjoyed the book, please comment here.

Garnered major media attention.

2022 also brought numerous opportunities for me to address educational equality, learning loss, curriculum reform, and related topics in the media. Highlights included publishing an op-ed in TIME, appearing on CBS Mornings, being cited by Forbes, and getting quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

Deepened connections to libraries and librarians.

I’ve always been a huge library fan, even serving as treasurer of the Austin Public Library Foundation and chair of the University of Texas Libraries Advisory Council. But this year, I expanded my work to present professional development workshops and public programs for libraries—all with the goal of helping them enhance collections, resources, and staff training to better support kids’ reading development.

I launched my book at the Milwaukee Public Library; addressed 500 librarians as the keynote speaker at the Association of Small and Rural Libraries convention; and hosted a virtual workshop for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Read by 4th and Read, Baby, Read initiatives.

Showed myself what I was capable of.

I have always known that I could write a book. The big questions were whether or not I would prioritize it and what sacrifices I was willing to make in other areas of my life to get it done. I’ll always remember 2022 as the year those questions were finally put to rest.

Enjoyed this article? Please share it on social media!