by Melissa Perry, Program Coordinator, Family Reading Partnership
With many families taking some sort of vacation this summer, there will be a lot of time spent on the road travelling with children. While traveling can be an exciting adventure, with opportunities to explore the world, experience new things, and create family memories, the reality is that it can also be stressful- especially when taking road trips with children. Fortunately, travel time is the perfect opportunity for children to enjoy the pleasure of reading! Not only is it a fun, quiet activity that can fill long stretches of time, it also lends itself to the discovery of far off lands and incredible people. (All of this to say nothing about the importance of reading to fend off summer learning loss!)
It’s simple to outfit a vehicle with a variety of literacy material within easy reach of your children, keeping them occupied to read to themselves, or read to you, the driver! Stash some books in the seat pockets or buckle in a milk crate or a backpack in the center seat and fill with books. It’s fun to bring along a few favorites and add some books related to your destination or journey along the way. Learning about the states or big cities you plan to travel through, the vehicles seen on the roads, or activities you may be doing on your trip, such as fishing, camping, or visiting Grandma. There is an abundance of books that can capture the attention of your young travelers. Books are the perfect travel companions because they can be read again and again and children can read them to each other. Bring along small clip-on book lights for nighttime reading. Don’t forget that comic books, joke books, I spy books, magazines, and graphic novels count, too!
Another great way to weave literacy into your car trip is to borrow a few recorded books to enjoy while traveling. There are many options at your local library and it’s something the whole family can enjoy together, naturally encouraging conversations about predicting what may happen next, what each character could have done differently in the story, or what may have happened with the characters before the story began. Adults can also check out a few recorded books of their own and pop those in while the kids are asleep.
With over two-thirds of the population of young children in the US having regular access to an e-reader or tablet of some sort, it may seem logical to leave the printed books and recorded books at home, opting instead for the electronic versions of books. However, if your intention is to encourage your children to read while on the road, it’s useful to know that only about half the number of children using an electronic device use it for reading. And even at that rate, electronic devices only hold a reader’s attention for five minutes per day; compared to 30 minutes per day a child will read printed books. That’s a significant difference!
So, as you pack the car for your next family adventure, be sure to include reading material for every member of the clan, including the adults to model reading as a pleasurable, relaxing, and valuable activity. You can even create simple activity kits that relate to the books you have decided to bring along that extend the experience for little ones and keep them occupied just that much longer. Consider small toys such as finger puppets, small animal figurines, or, my favorite, a notebook and crayons. A theme-based snack can be a fun addition, too!
Some fun travel themed books to check out include:
“Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go”
“Our 50 States” by Lynne Cheney
“Road Trip” by Roger Eschbacher
“Swimmy” by Leo Lionni
“S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet” by Helen Foster James
“Mister Seahorse” by Eric Carle
“Planes” by Byron Barton
“Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell
“Next Stop Grand Central” by Maira Kalman
“A Bear Called Paddington” by Michael Bond
“Wabi Sabi” by Mark Reibstein
“Fly High, Fly Lo” by Don Freeman
For older readers:
“The Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pop Osborne
“From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg
“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick
“The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey” by Trenton Lee Stewart
Happy reading on the run!