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Back-To-School with Maya Lê Espiritu

Back-to-school stress is at an all time high this year. Especially for little kids who spent most of the last school year away from their peers, transitioning back to school may be incredibly daunting. This month, we've partnered with Maya Lê Espiritu, creator of MaiStoryBook, to bring you a curated short-list of top choices for back-to-school reading!

Maya is an artist, elementary teacher, creator, and we're excited to introduce her and MaiStoryBook to you! Like us, she is "passionate about quality and equality in early education." MaiStoryBook has grown to include not only in-depth picture book recommendations focusing on diverse authors and stories, but also has lesson plans, craft and activity ideas, tutorial videos, and read-alongs. On her beautifully curated Instagram page, followers can find resources and recommendations for children's books across a variety of topics from kindness, to stories about empowered women, and topics in the news. Maya says that, "The goal of MaiStoryBook is to spotlight children’s illustrated books, as well as provide resources for parents, families, and teachers to inspire in children a love for books and a curiosity for the world of reading- all through a series of MaiStoryBook collections."

An artist herself, Maya says on her website, "I am a strong proponent of art in schools, and aspire to bring my experience and passion for the arts into my classrooms in order to inspire young children and encourage their creativity." At Modern Marigold Books, we take special pride in our illustrators. We believe it's critical to the outcome of the book that the illustrator have a close relationship to the author's words—not something every publisher cares to do. So, we especially appreciate Maya's focus on art and creativity in the books she chooses.

We agree wholeheartedly with Maya when she says, "I am also a firm believer in the power of books to open doors and spark the imagination of young readers."


Maya's Top 5 Top 5 Back-To-School Recommendations

Your Name is A Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe (2020)

Maya: "I always read books about the importance and value of names at the beginning of the year. When you learn someone's name and call them by name, it's validation that they are important, they matter, and they are seen."

From the Publisher: Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.


The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Rafael López (2018)

Maya: "A beautiful read about sharing your story and connecting with others. "

From the Publisher: Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.


Maya: "Love this one for the younger littles. A hilarious read aloud with a great message. Pigeon's anxieties about school are extreme, but can help littles express and acknowledge their own worries, and then realize along with Pigeon that school is a safe place to practice all the things you may be worried to learn about."


A Normal Pig by K-Fai Steele

Maya: "One of my favorites about being proud of who you are, accepting and appreciating differences, and standing up for yourself."

From K-Fai Steele: Pip is a spotted pig who grows up in an all-pink pig town. Pip is by her standards pretty normal; she likes to draw, play with friends, read, and make art. Everything changes when she’s told that she is, in fact, not normal at all.


Maya: "A super funny read aloud, perfect for some laughter and giggles the first few days of school. It leads to a great rock-paper-scissors ice-breaker activity, and then we talk about how we can use rock-paper-scissors in the classroom to settle quick problems. For example, if you both want to use the red crayon, do a quick rock-paper-scissors to see who goes first. We all agree to respect the rock-paper-scissors results."


Check back next week for a brand-new blog post featuring Maya's top 5 choices for children's magazines!

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