Milwaukee author Maya Smart is publishing a book to educate parents on how to teach young children to read and write

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – She’s a mother, wife, literacy advocate, and now an author who is coming up with a new book about how they can help parents teach their children to read and write at an early age. Maya Smart’s book, Get Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six, will be released Tuesday evening, August 2 in Milwaukee.

CBS 58 host Amanda Porterfield sat down with Maya Smart to talk about the book and how it will impact people here in our hometown.


“This book has been a long time coming,” said Smart.

Smart’s book is 10 years in the making. It started when their daughter Zora was a baby and like most parents, Smart wanted to be the best mom she could be.

“When my daughter was born 10 years ago I was so fascinated by articles I read about reading differences between different populations of children that I asked a lot of questions. I’m excited to be at the point where I’ve put all of this research together so that I can put it together in a neat package for other people to see,” 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 express themselves thoroughly.

“One specific thing I mention in the book is not just talking to the child or about the child. One piece of advice when my daughter was a baby was to tell everything, talk about the groceries you buy or the food that’s there, the table, the grass 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 also about the conversations you have around those books, and it’s also about the conversations you lead when there are no books in the room,” Smart said.

Smart does this with her family by her side. Her husband, Shaka Smart, is the senior men’s basketball coach at Marquette University. Together, the family has traveled from campus to campus to make their dreams come true. They ended up in Milwaukee and Maya Smart wrote the book while the family was in lockdown during the pandemic.

“My husband was just tremendously supportive when I drew those boundaries and said, ‘I need this time to do this and work on this project.’ He was able to adapt and pick out some of the things I’ve done before… I’m very fortunate to have the most supportive husband in the world,” Smart said.

Smart sees herself as an advocate for literacy and sits on committees supporting the concept and works on education policy at Marquette’s College of Education, where she read the intro to her book dedicated to her late father.

“My favorite part of this book is probably the introduction. In the introduction we talk a little bit about my father who died while I was pregnant with my daughter. So I had a chance to tell him I was going to have a kid but he didn’t get a chance to meet her,” Smart said.


Post-launch, the book will be available nationwide and available as an audiobook to educate new parents everywhere about one of the most important subjects a person can learn – which will no doubt make their dad proud.

“I think he would be extremely proud of me. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I’ve always wanted to write a book, it just took a little longer than I expected,” Smart said. “The subject was also something that I didn’t think 20 years ago, that I would write a book about early literacy, that I would write a book for parents. I would have thought 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 be another novel in my future, but I think raising public awareness is something really important.”

The Get Reading For Our Lives book launch will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Milwaukee Public Library Centennial Hall at 733 North 8th Street. To register, CLICK HERE.

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