Maya Smart
Maya SmartMarquette University

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
Curriculum Vitae

Affiliated Faculty

Educational Policy and Leadership

Maya Payne Smart is an author and early literacy advocate who helps parents nurture, teach, and advocate for children on the road to reading. Her website,, publishes new resources for families each week, including recommended reading lists, book crafts, and literacy activities.

Her book, Reading for Our Lives: Why Early Literacy Matters and How to Achieve It, is forthcoming from Avery/Penguin Random House in July 2022. Deeply practical and compassionate, the parents’ guide to early literacy:

  • Maps the road to reading, from infancy to early elementary, with clear descriptions of what to expect and focus on at each age and stage
  • Describes foundational literacy skills, explains why they matter for long-term reading success, and outlines how parents can foster them with warmth and responsiveness
  • Articulates the differences between nurturing, modeling, and teaching reading, and equips and encourages parents to teach when they need or choose to
  • Helps parents evaluate childcare and school options with a literacy lens to make better informed decisions for the whole child

Before relocating to Milwaukee, Smart held several leadership roles in Austin, Texas, including serving as vice chair of the board of the Texas Book Festival and chair of its outreach committee, which grants funds to libraries statewide and produces powerful author experiences in schools serving children from low-income families. She served on the St. David’s Foundation board and was vice chair of its community investment committee, which invested more than $75 million annually to improve the health and wellbeing of Central Texans. She is a past chair of the University of Texas Libraries Advisory Council and also has served on the boards of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, and Montessori For All.

In 2017, she was named a Woman of Power by Austin Way magazine and Person of the Year by Tribeza magazine in honor of her literacy work’s community import and impact. In 2019, her library and literacy advocacy was featured in a cover story in Austin Woman magazine. She holds a master’s degree in writing and reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and a bachelor’s degree with honors in social studies from Harvard University.

In Milwaukee, she looks forward to collaborating with researchers, educators, and community organizations to bring the best practices in early learning, home literacy, and reading instruction to the children, families, and communities who need them most.