Milwaukee author Maya Smart launches book to educate parents on teaching young children literacy
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — She’s a mother, wife, literacy advocate and now an author launching a new book on how to help parents teach their children literacy at an early age. On Tuesday evening, August 2, Maya Smart’s book – titled “Get Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six” – will be launched in Milwaukee.
CBS 58 anchor Amanda Porterfield sat down with Maya Smart to talk about the book and its impact on people right here in our hometown.
“This book has been a long time coming,” Smart said.
Smart’s book has 10 years of work. It all started when her daughter, Zora, was a baby, and like most parents, Smart wanted to be the best mother she could be.
“When my daughter was born 10 years ago, I was so fascinated by the articles I read about the reading disparities between different populations of children. Between black children and white children, socioeconomic children -economically disadvantaged and more affluent kids – digging into this, asking lots of questions. I’m thrilled to be at the point where I’ve compiled all of this research so I can compile it into a neat package for other people,” Smart said.
The book is just that. It gives concrete examples of simple things parents can do to help their children become active readers, writers and self-expression.
“One concrete thing I mention in the book is not just talking to the kid or the kid. One piece of advice when my daughter was a baby was to tell everything, talk about the groceries you buy or the the food that’s on the table, the grass that’s on the outside, all of those things are important I want people to know that raising a reader isn’t just about reading to your child every day, it’s is also about the conversations you have around these books and it’s also about the conversations you have when there are no books in the space,” Smart said.
Smart does it with his family by his side. Her husband, Shaka Smart, is the head coach of men’s basketball at Marquette University. Together, the family traveled from campus to campus to fulfill their dreams. They landed in Milwaukee and Maya Smart wrote the book while the family was in lockdown during the pandemic.
“My husband was hugely supportive of me when I created these boundaries and said, ‘I need this time for me to do this and work on this project. He was able to adapt and pick up on some of the things I used to do…I’m very lucky to have the most supportive husband in the world,” Smart said.
Smart considers herself an advocate for literacy and sits on boards supporting the concept, working on education policy at Marquette’s College of Education, where she read the introduction to her book dedicated to her late father.
“My favorite part of this book is probably the introduction. The introduction talks a bit about my dad who died while I was pregnant with my daughter. So I had the opportunity to tell him that I was going to have a child but he didn’t get to meet her,” Smart said.
Post-launch, the book will be on sale nationwide and available as an audiobook, educating new parents around the world on one of the most important topics a person can learn – making his dad undoubtedly proud.
“I think he would be extremely proud of me. I always wanted to be a writer, I always wanted to write a book, it just took me a little longer than I expected,” Smart said. “The topic was also something that I wouldn’t have thought 20 years ago that I would write a book on early literacy, that I would write a book for parents. I would have thought that I would write a book like a novelist. I was named after Maya Angelou, I named my daughter Zora after Zora Neal Hurston. There may still be a novel in my future, but I think there is has something really important in raising public awareness.
The “Get Reading For Our Lives” book launch is taking place at the Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall at 733 North 8th Street from 6:30-7:30 p.m. To register click here.