As I was scrolling through Facebook today, I came across a meme that read: Kids never age out of being read to aloud. I can not tell you how true this is. I sometimes think that older kids enjoy books being read to them far more than younger ones. So, what is it? What is the magic that makes kids enjoy the great read aloud?
When kids are just the receivers of words and they don’t have to decode the print, their minds can focus in on the storyline and visualization a good book brings to life. Kids- young and old- will always need to practice their own reading but they also need to practice these comprehension skills too. Reading develops focused stamina and creates a sense of calm as minds race to construct the setting and characters in their minds. Perhaps this was the idea behind the mom who invented the bedtime story.
So, how do you choose the right book to read aloud? Well, kids as young as kindergarten can listen to chapters of a book without pictures if the interest is high and the timing is right. An example might be the sweet series, The Littles written by John Peterson. This book of adventure has quick chapters and allows a young mind to soar as the characters conquer on problem after another. Older kids may be more interested in a read like The Book Thief. It’s an essential story to truly understand the world and well worth the time.
So, what do read alouds have to do with travel? More importantly, how can we use them to our strategic advantage while traveling?! Well, to answer both questions at the same time, I suggest that a good book could very well be a lifesaver in a host of travel situations.
- Airport delays: 30 minutes in an airplane seat can be agonizing especially if you didn’t plan for it.
- Road trip distractions: Hours in the car can lead to whiny moods and bored attitudes. Reading from a book or listening to an audiobook can be just the remedy.
- Rainy days stuck in hotel rooms: Let’s face it, sometimes Netflix just doesn’t cut it. Break up the monotony with a read aloud that let’s kids imaginations soar.
- Waiting in long lines: Whether it’s a theme park or the slow cue at the London Eye, a read aloud may be just the distraction you need.
- Enjoying a shady tree in a park: Sometimes downtime is just the right time to sit back and enjoy the outdoors with a good book. Kids can benefit from practicing this particular skill now more than ever.
Read on to check out some of our all time favorite picks to spark the travel imagination! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
P.L. Travers’ epitome of literary perfection is Mary Poppins. I know, I know, you saw the movie and it was delightful but, folks, the movie is just the tip of the iceberg! Trust me when I say that the movie is only half of Mary’s charm. Travers books are in-depth, thoughtful, smartly written with a timelessness that needs enjoyment as well as effort. Travers dives deep into Edwardian England and gives one a sense of historical understanding. This book is the perfect read aloud for young imaginations or an addictive bedtime read for the older set. So, go beyond the Jolly Holiday and put away the sugar because a spoonful of the one and only Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way!
What to see
Check out the Stanhope Gardens area to see a real life Cherry Tree Lane then head over to Regents Park to enjoy a little Jolly Holiday Time. Take time to explore past the steps of St. Paul’s and take a walk past the formidable Bank of London. While the movie touches on all of these sites, don’t forget to enjoy the London Zoo and dazzling Harrods that are book based. Wind up your practically perfect time with a Mary Poppins Themed tea at Aqua Shard then jaunt out to Windsor for a bit of high speed race course fun.
Percy Jackson and The Lightening Thief
New York City, Athens
The rest of the first book and, yes, the series, gives a modern take on a very old soap opera. These Greek gods are not infallible. In fact, they could give General Hospital a run for their melodrama money. With too many kids and far too much emotional time on their hands, they often make mistakes and, in turn, create quite the pickle for the kids. The good news is, any reader will walk away with a rudimentary understanding of this twisty family tree!
What To See
Start at the Met in New York City. The book starts letting Percy in on his real background here. Author Rick Riordan does a masterful job of describing the museum and leading you right to the room where the first battle with the darker side of things occurs. Additionally, a trip to the top of the Empire State Building toward the end of the book may be in order.
Use the rest of the first book and the whole series to familiarize with the mortal homes of the main players. For example, chapter 13 is a perfect reread while visiting the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. While chapter 21 may ring just a little more true on top of the Acropolis and in the shadow of the Parthenon. It’s the closest thing to where the gods would actually meet.
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone
London, Scotland, Theme Parks
Harry is 10. His family is horrible. He receives a letter and magic ensues. This masterpiece of descriptive literature is the brainchild, literally, of J.K. Rowling. Harry will take you on a 7 volume epic that will have you questioning whether you are more magic than muggle yourself! Rowling used a series of locations that she knew well as the basis for the many magical locations in her story.
What To See
The queen of describing her self created world of Harry Potter does an incredible job of intertwining fantasy and reality. While Harry may be riding the Hogwarts Express, any visitor to the Highlands can enjoy the magic on the Jacobite train. Want to pop in to Diagon Alley for a new book from Flourish and Blotts? Well, the many alleyways and closes in great cities like Edinburgh and London may have you feeling like you can. Test out Mary’s King Close on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile for what awaits in book 2’s chapters 3 and 4! Speaking of London, King’s Cross Station stands proudly and is ready to ensure that you find Platform 9 3/4 like any good witch or wizard should.
But probably the very best place to read this story out loud is in line at Harry Potter World. That’s right, if you are waiting in line for the Hogwarts Express, read Rowling’s description from chapter 6. In line for the Gringott’s ride? Chapter 5 will keep you entertained. Put these theme parks to the test by searching out each and every detail. It will make the time pass and make the rides even better.
The Book Thief
A dark read, as the entire passage is narrated by Death itself, the book thief follows the journey of Leisel on Himmel Street. She must learn to live through and past the atrocities of World War II: a life lesson like no other. With a nod toward how important the little things are, like books, Leisel teaches us all to appreciate how to march on after tragedy.
What To See
Set in Germany, The Book Thief captures a feeling of a generation who lost so very much. This loss often defines the overall spirit of many central European countries. None wear this spirit more clearly than Poland. Visiting Krakow and Auschwitz are moving experiences that will instill a love for the life we live now. Other important sites in Poland include the Warsaw Zoo (read The Zookeeper’s Wife), the Gdansk Shipyards (understand solidarity) and Wawel Hill to see beyond the 20th Century.
Hoot and The Case Of The Missing Manatee
The Everglades and The Florida Keys
With a movie scored by none other than Jimmy Buffet, Hoot has a South Florida vibe like no other. Main character Roy is a transplant from Montana who befriends a local boy determined to help the endangered ground owls. On the same note, The Missing Manatee is a mystery that Skeet needs to solve. But middle schoolers don’t necessarily have the chance to investigate unless…. Skeet’s tarpon fishing boat is his prized possession and comes in quite handy.
What To See
Both books completely capture the Everglades ebb and flow of water and land perfectly. And in real life this is most evident in the Keys. Take a road trip over bridge after bridge and island after island. Stop and enjoy the mangroves. Learn from the locals who know the waters better than the streets. Explore Everglades National Park. Take time to understand why humans need to do a better job for our planet.
Katie In London
As a bonus, I’m throwing in this delightful read for the younger set. Katie is a curious girl ready to explore all kinds of art and all kinds of places. She is the perfect introduction to the world of travel for any young mind.
Music is a read aloud too!
I often think that good read alouds have all of the qualities of good storytellers. Whether we hear those stories from family members, whether we seek out professionals who can spin a good yarn, or whether we invest in the lyrics of great songwriters, storytelling surrounds us in so many ways. But stories that travelers connect to, often take us through the setting and inspire us to understand a location like no other medium. Take for example Paul McCartney’s ode to childhood: Penny Lane. Listen at the 2:20 mark as the master of songwriting takes you right through his hometown. It’s like a map!
Travel and books are partners.
There’s something about learning as you travel. The experience is real. Sometimes awe inspiring, sometimes overwhelming, other times- though not as often- disappointing. There is something about reading a sign in a museum or church rather than a caption in a book. Then again, buying a copy of Alice in Wonderland in Oxford probably has a joy that can’t be quantified. It is this sense of wonder-this carpe diem attitude- that inspires me to be an educator. And it is this relationship that makes me strive to create global citizens.
A generation of curious minds who strive to learn how others take on their daily life. I find even the youngest of students have that same natural curiosity to connect to places they haven’t been. And there is always that one spirit, that one child who looks at a book of maps for the very first time and has a feeling that they just can’t identify, the feeling of wanderlust. And just like that, with those little hands exploring that globe… Another gypsy is born, another global citizen hatched. Witnessing that life changing moment is priceless. And that my friends, that’s the ticket!