Sunday, June 26, 2011

Storybook Travels

Summer is synonymous with travel. Great weather and three fun-filled months without school make it the perfect time for vacations, staycations, road trips, and sightseeing. Whatever your vacation plans, summer is also a great time to build excitement in reading by incorporating books into your activities.

When my nieces were little, we spent an afternoon at the Boston Public Garden retracing the path of the Mallard family from Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings. We walked the same path in front of the Four Seasons Hotel as Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack, scoured the pond for safe places to build a nest, and searched for the kindly policeman who stopped traffic for Mrs. Mallard and her brood. We scanned the rooftops of the buildings surrounding the park for the rounded dome of the Capitol Building, and enjoyed a rereading of the story seated under a weeping willow tree. To end our adventure, we visited the bronze tribute to McCloskey and his wonderful book, where the girls posed for some photos with the Mallard family.

This fun activity was the perfect way to bring Make Way For Ducklings to life as we did some sightseeing around historic Boston. The added bonus was that we were able to reinforce the joy of the story, and as a result reading in general, taking us one step closer to growing lifelong readers.

Although McCloskey's story is particular to Beantown (and I encourage you to try this activity if you are visiting this summer!) there are likely lots of great children's books that will be a perfect enhancement to your vacation (or staycations) plans:

Bring the story of the precocious Eloise, hotel dweller and mischief maker extraordinaire, to life by enjoying an afternoon of tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and participate in a scavenger hunt to find Jackson Pollock's Autumn Rhythm #30 and Edgar Degas' Ballet Rehearsal on the Set, the two paintings featured in Olivia by Ian Falconer. Older children can retrace the steps of Claudia and her younger brother from E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Read Diary of a Worm or Yucky Worms and then dig in a garden or explore under a rock to examine the real thing.

Pore over Sky Boys: How They Built The Empire State Building by James E. Ransom, then take an elevator to the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Prior to visiting Maine, read One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey (can you tell he is a favorite?), The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown or Going Lobstering by Jerry Pallotta to get a feel of this unique New England state.

A trip to the ocean wouldn't be complete without a reading of Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan,  Flotsam by David Weisner or Ladybug Girl at the Beach by David Soman.

Prepare for a ball game, or the start of little league season, with a rousing reading of Zachary's Ball by Matt Tavares, Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, or Take Me Out To The Ball Game by Jack Norworth.

Get creative - even your mode of transportation is a starting point - and find clever ways to incorporate picture books into your summer plans. Not only will you be enhancing your "sightseeing' experience, but you are reinforcing the idea that reading is enjoyable, informative and relevant. A perfect way to encourage lifelong readers!


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