The best travel reading for kids!
I am so excited to have a guest blogger for December!! Say Hey to Brittany Dahl!
Brittany Dahl is a mommy and certified reading teacher with over a decade of experience in the classroom. Her favorite places to travel have been to Yosemite National Park to hike Half Dome with her dad, as well as Vienna, Austria to sip Grüner Veltliner in the wine gardens around the Vienna woods. Brittany has worked with hundreds of children in order to help them envision the books they read. It is now her goal to share her tips and resources with you, so you can experience the magic of books with your child. You can find her at https://themiraculousjourneyofbooks.com/
Many of us are hitting the road in the next few weeks to visit friends and family. As you are loading up the car with your luggage and your Christmas gifts, don't forget to add some of the best books for road trips!
Road trips are another great opportunity to show your kids the magic of books. As a parent, you may be dreading the "Are we there yet?" complaints. We know what it's like to repeatedly hear those little protests from the back seat! This doesn't have to be an over-the-top perfect experience, but you do want to offer your kids something simple and enjoyable. Here are our tips and resources (more than just reading a physical book!) to help you ease on down the road...
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Read a Fantastic Book
Reading in the car isn't for everyone. For those who can get into it, here are some books that are so engrossing that they will allow you to tune everything else out:
Babies & Toddlers
Little Traveler Board Book Set by Mudpuppy
This series was given to us a gift and we love to read it with our little one! Each book has bright, contrasting colors that are great for baby's developing eyes (read more about this in our recommendation list of baby board books - I go into great detail in the "First Look Books" section.). The Little Traveler books are about different aspects of travel: landmarks, vehicles, food, and animals. Introduce the love of travel and new places to your little one!
The Four Seasons by Fiona Watt
Sound books can be hit or miss, but this one from Usborne Books is something everyone in the car can handle! It plays Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which is both entertaining and calming at the same time. I have found that sound books, as well as touchy-feely books hold my baby's attention more than any other type of book.
Ages 3 - 7
Peek Inside How a Plane Works by Lara Bryan
"Peek inside a plane to find pink fuel, a powerful engine, and a cockpit full of controls. Discover how a little fleet of trucks gets the plane ready to fly, then follow the plane as it zooms up into the sky. Caroline Attia’s colorful illustrations bring the workings of a plane to life, from the pilot’s secret bedroom to where the snacks are stored."
This book is part of a great series that your kids 3 years and up will love! Peek inside burrows, inside barns, under leaves, and even inside the zoo, to find all the fun facts about our world.
How Cities Work (Lonely Planet Kids) by Jen Feroze
If you have done any traveling before, you have likely come across a Lonely Planet guide book. They are expanding on this line to add Lonely Planet Kids, "a children's imprint that brings the world to life for young explorers everywhere." They have great resources to get your little one excited about exploring our great big world, too!
How Cities Work is a fantastic, interactive book that allows kids to get an inside look at some of the places we frequently visit. There are lots of facts, loads of flaps to lift, and unfolding pages to see inside buildings and under the streets.
Billie B. Brown: The Spotty Vacation by Sally Rippin
Billie B. Brown is a fantastic series created especially for new readers. She is "brave, brilliant, bold, and bound to become your best friend!" In this particular book, Billie is bound for a visit to her grandmothers house when she wakes up to find she has the chicken pox.
I love this series because it makes everyday situations relatable and fun. There are great themes of friendship, family, and it encourages your child to be positive and kind.
Getting your budding reader hooked on a series is one of the best ways to encourage a love for reading. (Read more about the importance of a series here.) A great car trip is the perfect place to start introducing them to these types of books.
Ages 6 - 13
Whether you have plans to visit some place other than Grandma's house or somewhere more adventurous, this series is a great choice for your kids while you travel! From monuments all across the United States to many international sites, these books are packed full of great information that will get your kids excited about your trip. There are 36 books so far in the series and you are likely to find one about the area you will be visiting. Topics cover places like the Brooklyn Bridge, Alcatraz, the Mississippi River, Walt Disney World, Broadway, and the Tower of London.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
I have read this book every year to my students for the past eleven years. It never fails to make us laugh — to the point where I have to stop reading so everyone can hear me – and it always manages to cause me to shed a tear or two. This is the sweet story of a family of misfits who find their way into the church Christmas play. It will show you the true meaning of this great season, and it deserves to be reread each year.
The Oregon Trail by Jesse Wiley
I just recently added this series to my "to read" list. It looks like the perfect companion for any traveler! The books are a "choose your own trail" series that allow you to complete the journey to Oregon City. "It's 1850 and your first goal is to get your family, covered wagon full of supplies, and oxen to Chimney Rock on time. But hurry--you'll need to make it through the rugged mountains before winter snow hits. Plus, there are wild animals, natural disasters, unpredictable weather, fast-flowing rivers, strangers, and sickness that will be sure to stand between you and your destination!"
There are twenty-two possible endings in each book, they challenge you to make the right decision with the consequence of not making it to your destination on time. There's also a great element of studying a map to help you make the best decision!
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
All road trips would benefit from the inspiration of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. I loved this book and it definitely got me thinking about hitting the road with my family! I would recommend it for kids who are ages 11-13.
Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, travel around the country in a school bus for five full years. Along the way they encounter a motley crew of folks who are each on their own adventure. When young Coyote learns that a beloved park in her home town is being demolished, she comes up with a sneaky plan to convince her dad to drive back to their home state of Washington.
Activities to Keep You Busy
Having some interactive activities ready to hand-off to your kids will definitely add an element of excitement to your trip. Here are our recommendations for some of our favorites:
For your littlest kiddos, Pop Blocs are the perfect toy to keep them busy, as well as encourage growing fine motor skills. Children must match the animal parts together to make them whole, which also improves cognitive skills. There are two parts to each animal, which means they're easy to keep track of in the car! Also, a textured ball set will help babies to develop tactile senses as they manipulate the soft balls. One or two of these thrown into your activity bag will be perfect to keep them busy.
Another great way to entertain your kiddos is to share some card games that encourage them to hunt for objects along the drive. Or, keep their hands moving while building with Wikki Stix.
Travel Journal by Rose Hall
About two years ago my husband and I started keeping a travel journal, and it has already become a precious keepsake. This particular journal offers your little one prompts to guide them on what to write. There are also places to capture some of your memories with drawings.
This journal is part of a series of activity journals that I would recommend checking out. There might be something to inspire your budding writer while you are on your road trip. I would recommend these for age 7 and older.
Travel Activity Pad by Simon Tudhope
"Whether you’re in a car, train, boat or plane, long journeys will pass by in a flash with this fun-packed pad. Includes over 200 tear-out pages packed with pen-and-paper puzzles to keep the whole family entertained, wherever you happen to be! Includes picture puzzles, word puzzles, simple logic puzzles, odd ones out, spot the difference and lots, lots more. Perfect for slipping into your hand luggage." Recommended for age 6 and up.
"There are over 100 pages packed full of travel-themed activities in this pocket-sized puzzle book - the ultimate boredom buster. Contains mazes, picture puzzles, word searches, number problems and much more (with all of the answers at the back of the book). Great for tossing into a backpack or suitcase." Recommended for age 6 and older.
Listen to Audiobooks
Audiobooks are one of my favorite ways to pass the time on the road and still feel like you've done something productive! A fun game to play to keep your kids engaged is to turn it off at random points and ask them to tell the next part of the story. Then, listen some more to see if they got it correct! Here are some of my favorites for a long car ride:
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
Echo is a beautiful tale that begins as a fantasy telling of a prophesy and the importance of a harmonica. Then, it turns into a work of historical fiction that takes place during WWII.
The setting changes from Germany to Pennsylvania and then to Southern California, following the stories of three musically inclined children.
I would highly recommend that you listen to the audiobook! Since there is such a strong theme of music, there are musicians playing all of the pieces mentioned throughout the story. They talk about a number of famous composers and their works, so it is very exciting to actually hear the pieces as you are reading.
Read our more detailed review, including great questions for teaching opportunities throughout the story!
Disney Parks Presents: Jungle Cruise by Walt Disney Imagineering & Jungle Cruise Skippers
The best part of Disney's Jungle Cruise are the skippers! Listen to this fantastic book that includes all of their "pun-omenal jokes" that you hear on the ride. Imagine yourself on the boat with a "witty and experienced skipper to exotic rivers of the world, and leave smiling with memories of their vibrant voyage." Along with the audio you get to enjoy some great illustrations that accompany the jokes of the classic attraction, and together they steer readers deeper and deeper into lush lands filled with adventures, animals, and laughs.
Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson
I originally read this book during my teaching internship to a group of energetic eight year olds. They were enraptured by this story, and so was I! It is the prequel to Peter Pan and gives you great insight into how this fantastic boy of Scottish fairy tale lore came to be.
It is read by Jim Dale, who also narrated the Harry Potter audiobooks. Also, if you enjoy the first one, there are four more in the series!
Matilda by Roald Dahl
If you have ever read a Roald Dahl book aloud, you have probably realized that it is no easy task! He is a master with words and quick wit, but the phrases he links together do not easily roll off the tongue. Therefore, it's much easier to listen to his stories on audio! He is a fantastic writer and this tale of a neglected young girl who makes a way for herself will easily draw the most reluctant readers in. I love the magic and the joy in this story. Plus, the silliness leaves you with a perpetual smile! An added bonus to listening to the audio is that it’s narrated by Kate Winslet.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
While researching and brainstorming for this post, I kept coming across Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I distinctly remember watching and loving the Disney movie as a child, but I have not had the pleasure of listening to it. I have immediately added this to my "to read" list, and I have a feeling you should, as well.
What could be better for a road trip than a traveling, flying car?
Finding audiobooks for free
The best place to find audiobooks is at your local library. They can be pricey, so stream them from your phone or check out the set of CDs to play in the car. All libraries offer online access to digital resources that you can download for free using your library card!
Study an Interactive Map
Each of these books are excellent for travel. They will help to keep your little explorer engaged and excited about each coming state that you journey toward. Also, many of these are frequently used alongside homeschooling curriculum. They have become favorites for parents and children!
Big Picture Atlas by Emily Bone
"A wonderfully big picture atlas for children to learn the basis of world geography. Lots of busy maps with fun illustrations to learn about the food and culture of other countries as well as capital cities. Putting pictures onto facts helps with memory and this big, satisfying book will help children memorize geography facts with ease."
The Big Picture Book of Planet Earth by Megan Cullis
"This book will take young readers on a spectacular journey around the world, from the highest mountain peaks to the very bottom of the ocean. Full of fascinating facts, this book uses jaw-dropping landscapes and richly illustrated maps to explain the wonderful secrets behind Planet Earth. Full of rich vocabulary, quicklinks also will add virtual tours, reconstructions, games and other homework help."
The 50 States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 Fact-Filled Maps by Gabrielle Blakin
"As promised, 50 States features bright, stylized illustrated maps and infographics that cover the United States. Teach your kids the story of the John Muir Trail! The significance of Fort Sumter! The birthplace of Bruce Lee! Author Gabrielle Balkan makes a point of highlighting more than just what the state tourism bureau puts in its brochures. After all, if you’ve seen one Civil War battlefield, you’ve seen them all. (They look like fields.)"
Usborne Geography Encyclopedia by G. Doherty, A. Claybourne, S. Davidson
This is not your typical, boring encyclopedia. It's a book that is well-loved by many families. It's filled with facts, photographs, charts, and colorful maps! This newly updated book will introduce you to the whole field of geography, from rocks and their formation, the Solar System, weather and climates, and oceans, to human settlements, population trends, diverse ecosystems and environmental concerns.
Wherever your journeys lead you, I hope you enjoy your time with your family. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Thanks so much Brittany for all of your amazing suggestions!! See you soon readers!
Merry Christmas! ~Maria