When I was young, I couldn’t travel anywhere without books! My parents used to tease me when we left for a trip– “are you really going to read all those books?” Well, now my husband does the same thing since I bring books for my two children, ages 7 and 4, as well as for myself. And I usually like to have a wide selection: some fiction, some history, some practical reading, such as health, or survival skills. I never know what might come in handy or what I might feel like reading.
Transporting a library can be challenging, though. Fortunately, my husband Jim has tapped into some great sites for free audio downloads. www.librivox.org is one of our favorites. They have many classics, read by volunteers, all free, because they are in the public domain. On our recent trips, we have enjoyed listening to Paula the Waldensian, Master NoBook, the original Pinochio, The Outdoor Girls of Deep Dale, by Laura Lee Hope (author of the Bobsey Twins.) We enjoyed them as much as the children. If you’re not sure if your little ones are really listening, don’t worry. They do pick up on things more than we know. Are they learning to read? Sure they are! The logic and love of language comes from hearing things spoken, as well as reading them with your eyes. If you prefer, you can find the classics at the library, with pictures and then download the free audio so that they can be following along. This method is great for little ones that are just starting to read!
I love to bring Geography Songs from Sonlight along on almost any trip. We can listen to the song about the United States and look at the map. I have some additional map coloring/activity books to add to this exercise. Because so many books from Sonlight cover geography and different peoples all over the world, I can also tie these into the terrain we are visiting. My children were learning a little bit about the Middle East from the book Window on the World, when we took our trip to Arizona in the February/ March (the perfect time to go, as far as I’m concerned!) Since we visited the Sonora Desert, I was able to talk about other desert climates in the world and how they were similar or different. (The Sonora Desert actually gets a good deal of rainfall, it just happens to evaporate quickly because there are no roots or soil to hold it. This results in different and more plentiful vegetation than other types of desert.)
When we left for the trip, I brought some books we were finishing up. Naturally, it’s good to teach the children to finish what they start. One of them was Box Car Children, a book we have from Sonlight. My six year old and I were taking turns reading parts of it. In this beautiful story, the orphaned children live for a few months in a stationary, abandoned boxcar. We discussed the different parts of the country and what part of the country this story was likely to have taken place. As we had driven South from Illinois to Tennessee, across Arkansas and Texas, through New Mexico and over to Azrizona, then North to the Grand Canyon, then to Denver, and finally back to Illinois, we were able to observe first hand the contrasts in climate and wildlife, in a way that you cannot do during mid- summer, when life is vibrant (and hot) everywhere.
Additionally, we brought books that my husband and I had from previous trips West– some about desert life and some about the Grand Canyon. Never worry about bringing too many books! Encourage learning and it will happen readily! And you can always follow up at home, by going to the library and checking out books that have to do with where you’ve just been…