Reading at the library — Photo courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org
From an early age, my mother started taking me to the Carnegie Youth Library in my small hometown. It was there that I developed my love for books, checking out a huge stack at a time. In the days before internet and VCR's, it was the greatest childhood escape. Now, with technology coming at us from all directions, it is still important to instill a love for books in kids. Teach them to curb the video games and have some quiet time with some different kinds of characters - those found in pages.
Addicted to reading, not video games — Photo courtesy of GoodNCrazy
Once in the habit, kids will see how many places they can go by reading; how many adventures they can have in faraway places. Older kids will be interested to see these places on a map, expanding their knowledge of the world. Reading for pleasure helps kids when it comes time to do reading for school. If they already love it, they won't see it as such a chore.
Travel journal — Photo courtesy of jespahjoy
Getting ready for a trip? Teach your little ones through story and pictures what it is like to board a train, a plane, a bus, etc. They will relate to it much better themselves after having seen Mr. Bunny, for example, do it first. When it comes time to do these things in your travels, you can remind your child that you're doing just what Mr. Bunny did, eliminating some possible anxiety. Encourage your older child to keep a travel journal, something they will enjoy reading many years later.
Some great selections for little ones are The Little Airplane and The Little Train by Lois Lenski. Anne Gutman has written three for the younger first-time travelers, Lisa's Airplane Trip, Lisa in New York, and Gaspard at the Seashore. Henry the Steinway Tours the World by Sally Coveleskie is an illustrious adventure of a little girl following her father, the concert pianist, as he performs in many different cities worldwide.
The Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans are very popular with young girls. Madeline in London follows Madeline and her classmates' trek from Paris to London and their adventures there. Young boys might relate to mischeivous Max in the classic Where the Wild Things Are, where he takes a fantastical voyage, meeting monsters along the way. The Travels of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff from the Babar series is a favorite.
Other notable titles for very young children are See the Ocean by Estelle Condra, Komodo! by Peter Sis, Top of the World (Toot and Puddle) by Hollie Hobbie and How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague.
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, by D. B. Johnson, shows two friends and their different methods of getting to the same place, walking and discovering many things along the way, or working hard to earn money to take the train. It also subtly introduces the historical characters Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, the inspiration for the book, to the older reader.
The older child can't help but love the classics Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, chronicling these young boys' adventures on the Mississippi River. The Boxcar Children series of books by Gertrude Chandler Warner are easy to read for those who are starting to read chapter books. Also ever popular are the Magic Tree House series of books, following the fantastical adventures of Jack and his little sister Annie after they discover a magic tree house filled with books.
Other great honorable mentions for older kids are The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzales, Marco Polo: The Boy who Traveled the Medieval World, a National Geographic Youth Biography and Around the World by Matt Phelan.
Older kids will also appreciate the wonderful tour guides that are made just for kids. There are so many guides now that give great tidbits of information on different cities you and your family may be visiting. Your child may be educating you on what you are about to see! Some travel guides worth checking out are Eye Witness Kids by OK Publishers, Planet Explorers, e-books by Laura Schaefer and the kidsGo! travel guides by Mio Debnam.
Reading the map — Photo courtesy of IvanWalsh.com
All older kids should be exposed to the National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers before embarking on any journey, so they can relate to where they are going in relation to where they live. Once on a trip, encourage your child to help read the map and guide you when exploring.
The author's son and mother, carrying on the tradition — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren
To all the parents and grandparents out there reading to your kids, keep up this most valuable tradition. And on a personal note, a big thank you to my mother, who read my most requested book to me every day when I was little - Gift Bear for the King - about a bear and his selfless journey to give himself as a birthday gift to the King. Could this be where my sense of independence and love for travel first started? You just never know how much you give to a child when you read to them.