Whether you've got weekend road trips or a longer family vacation planned for the remaining weeks of summer, keeping your kids reading and writing along the way will pay off big time when it comes to their reading readiness in the new school year. Here are six quick tips from my family's recent vacation that kept my boy's reading and writing along the way.
1. Have your kids take books they're excited to read. A few weeks before we left, I asked each of my boys to pick out a few books and graphic novels that they'd want to take on vacation – they were set aside for the trip. Once we left, these books were easily accessible in the car and in their backpacks when on the move. There were definitely moments when we all wanted some down time – and all of us had a good book to read in the car or wherever we were relaxing.
2. Collect maps and guide books about the different destinations you'll be visiting. We stashed these in the back seat where the guys were sitting and they were available in the car at all times. So, as we were driving, the kids could help navigate using the maps or find out some info on where we were headed to share with us while we drove to our next destination.
3. Have your kids take along a writing journal. We waited until we got to our destination, and the boys picked out writing journals that had images of that region/destination on the cover so that they'd have it as a keepsake from their vacation. In the past, I've also gotten notebooks at the store to decorate with maps, postcards, or images of the places we were going on vacation. You can collect postcards or stickers, and take photos on the trip and have them cover the journal when they get home, too. Each day they jotted down what they did, something they saw, or what they liked best about the day. It doesn't have to be a lot – just the routine of writing it down each day is great. Lots of their entries included sketches, too. All of it counts!
4. Pack a few Mad Libs books. Kids LOVE Mad Libs. I pulled these out a few days into the trip to mix it up a bit. A few dollars each, these went a long way and were a great source of fun on our trip. We did them together as a family in the car as we drove or when we were just hanging out together in the evening, and we had a lot of laughs reading them back to each other. Not only do Mad Libs get kids reading, but they also help them remember the meaning of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. And they're funny!! What's not to like?
5. Find fiction and non-fiction stories that take place in or are about the places you're going – and let your kids lead the way. We went out West this year and crossed lots of terrain that prompted questions about the American Indians, animals of that region, the early settlers and trappers of the West, and what the West was like a long time ago. We made an effort to stop into bookstores, visitor centers, and museums where books about the area and its history were easily available and often on display. My boys picked up a few books that they likely wouldn't have picked back at home – because the trip inspired their interest. Following their interests led to bonus reading – lots of it. The best part was when they could then share facts and stories with the family about what they'd read and what interested them – and it all connected back to where we were. We all learned something new together and they led the way.
6. Take along a book to read aloud. Because you never know what your kids will be up for – I picked out a book that I could read aloud if they were tired or finished their own books before we returned home. Not only did they read everything they brought, but we collected some new reading material and I finished reading the book I read aloud. It was fun to anticipate what was going to happen in the story we read aloud together each day. Sometimes I'd read as we drove, sometimes it was a great way to end a long day of fun and adventure.
Whatever you do, keep it light and fun and have a few options for your kids. Not all of these activities have to happen every day. In my experience, giving kids choices and access (and a little encouragement) puts the power in their hands and big rewards will follow.
Happy road trip! Happy reading!
We'd love to hear how you take reading and writing on the road! Share your favorite tips with us on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.