By Sue LeBreton
School may be the farthest thing from your mind when packing for a family vacation but that doesn’t mean learning and literacy need to be left at home. Follow these 12 simple steps and your family will strengthen their literacy skills throughout your journey.
1. If you are planning a family vacation, involve your children in the planning and research stages. This can be especially fun for older children. They can use on line resources to discover interesting facts about the destination and cool things to do when you get there. When we went to Disney I had my son research the various rides so we would have a must do list.
2. Research books set in the destination and consider reading one or two as a family. It may offer you a glimpse into the differences between your holiday destination and your home and can lead to some interesting discussion before and after vacation. Try both fiction and non-fiction books as fiction may give you a real sense of a place. (If you have ever read Stephen King and driven through northern Maine you will see his inspiration). For younger children picture or photo books can help them prepare for a trip to a new place.
3. For a road trip, download an audio book you can listen to as a family. It is also a great way to “read” if you get car sick. Persevere through the process as it may take many suggestions before you find a book everyone is happy with. Who knows what gems you may find for reading later when researching? Keep a list.
4. If you don’t get car sick and are keen to read aloud, you can read to your children and the driver while on a road trip. It can be easier with a print book to pause and comment about the story. Joke books provide an engaging, distraction on long trips. Caution: it may also lead to family members trying to compose their own jokes.
5. Think about packing some MadLibs books. They are stories with blanks so that you can take turns filling in the missing nouns, verbs and adjectives. Results are silly and hysterical. Your children will be too busy laughing to realize they are learning.
6. If you are travelling by plane you might download an audio book and you can each listen individually. If you cannot agree on a book, have each person pick their own title and then see who can convince other family members to read or listen to their choice on the way home. It is great fun to watch children get fired up over “their” book.
7. Keep reading to your children on vacation. Think reading around a camp fire-who doesn’t love a scary story?
8. If you are in a hotel on a travel vacation, read the guide book aloud at night so you can all prepare for the next day’s adventure.
9. Writing is essential to developing reading skills so consider keeping a family journal on vacation with each person making a daily entry. The younger children can draw the best part of their day. This will make a great memento or you can use it as the inspirational spark for a silly family story post vacation.
10. Pack a bag of books for the trip or destination. If you need to pack lightly consider e books, they are great for travel.
11. Model that reading behavior on vacation; make sure there’s some downtime every day.
12. Keep a book with you at all times so you can read to the kids while waiting in line (another time where e books come in handy- you can switch from one book to another). There’s never a reason to hear “I’m bored” when a book is in hand!
Sue LeBreton is a freelance writer and avid reader who uses family vacations as another method to spark her children’s interest in literacy.