Category Archives: Children and reading

Lonely Planet Travel Books for Kids Can Help Your Family Avoid a Case of MCS, “Maximum Cultural Saturation”

Unknown-3As a planner of family vacations, it took me a long time to reconcile my list of all the great things I wanted to show and teach my sons with the list of what might really interest them.

That was especially tough when it came to cities. At one point, as we dragged our kids through the British Museum, one of the boys declared that he had “reached maximum cultural saturation.” He just couldn’t visit one more museum, cathedral or fancy garden. Truth be told, the adults felt the same way.

Lonely Planet (the people who publish all those guidebooks for 5008-Not_For_Parents__New_York__North_American_Edition_222913_Largeadults) offers a terrific series of “Not-For-Parents” guidebooks that can help avoid a case of MCS on your next family vacation. The company sent me several copies to review and I’m now ready to gather up a few kids and take a trip.

One of my favorite things about travel is anticipating the trip. It’s a holdover from when I was a kids my mom took me to the library to load up on books that took place in the areas where we were going. Reading ahead of time offers a preview of coming attractions— what the food is like, historic things that happened there, what the buildings look like, animals you might see— things like that.

The series is a perfect way to to encourage such anticipation and to help children and families get the most from their trips. The books, as the company says, “open up a world of intriguing stories and fascinating facts about the people, places, history and culture of the world’s most exciting cities,” but they do it in a way that’s energetic and appealing, even for adults.

The three books I have cover “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know” about Europe, Paris and New York. They feature the inside scoop on each city with bright colors, crazy pictures and cartoons, and a combination of information that ranges from history and fashion, to scenes from movies and gross food that people may eat there—like snails in Paris. In the New York book, you’ll find Andy Warhol, rats and musicians in the subways, a look at Ellis Island and favorite NYC sports teams, and a lot of other fun stuff.

imagesSo, no more MCS. And, even if you’re not planning a major trip, these books make great summer reading and armchair travel for kids.

Lonely Planet also offers a helpful page on How to Travel Like a Kid that adults will want to read, just to remind themselves how to keep family trips kid friendly.

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What Children’s Book Turned You On to Reading, Or Travel?

NRD-LOGO1It’s National Reading Day.  I believe we should all celebrate by taking the rest of the day off  to read more books. If that doesn’t work for you, I want to share a great article from Charles Blow at The New York Times called “Reading Books Is Fundamental,” a follow up to my previous post. It brings tears to my eyes when he talks about his first experience buying something for himself–a book. “That was the beginning of a lifelong journey in which books would shape and change me, making me who I was to become.”  It also brings tears to my eyes when he talks about how few people read books today. 

Was there a children’s book or series of books that made you a dedicated reader? A life-changing book? Was there a book that made you wish you could go explore the story in person?  Share your favorite children’s book below in the comments section. 

Need Last Minute Christmas Gifts? Buy Off The Beaten Page, Support Children’s Literacy

Hennepin County Medical Center's Children's Literacy program provides books and reading experiences when children visit the doctor.
Hennepin County Medical Center’s Children’s Literacy program provides books and reading experiences when children visit the doctor.

Reading entertains us, teaches about ourselves and others, transports us in our minds to places we’ve never been and often inspires us to go to those places in the real world. So for many of us, its hard to imagine living in a home without books.  It’s especially hard to imagine raising children without the art, imagination, rhyme, and humor of children’s books. But more importantly, reading plays a crucial role in brain development, language skills and many other factors that affect a child’s success in school. Studies show a clear link between low reading skill and poor health throughout life.

That’s why a percentage of holiday season sales of my book (through the end of the year), Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways, will go to a terrific organization, the Children’s Literacy Program at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.  The program’s Book Buddy volunteers read to children in doctors’ waiting Make the Connect-rgbrooms, and they create bilingual books by inserting translated text into English books.  They also put together the Books for Babies packets so that almost every child born at Hennepin County Medical Center is welcomed with a book in their home language. HCMC is also a Reach Out and Read site, part of a national program that makes literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care so children receive books during their doctor visits.  Approximately 87 percent of the children served at HCMC are from low-income households and many would not have books at all if not for this program.

It’s not that these parents don’t care about reading.  Says HCMC Children’s Literacy Liaison, Lynn Burke, “Our patients’ resources are so limited, books are just not a priority. One parent, with tears in his eyes tried to give a book back because he thought he would have to pay for it and he couldn’t afford it.  Our doctors and staff explained that the books we give are always free and belong to the patient, that is, we aren’t loaning books to our families, we are giving books to them.” In fact the program distributes 30,000 children’s books annually. 

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At Hennepin County medical center, children receive books during well child visits and young parents learn about he value of reading with their children.

Burke offers this story from a Book Buddy volunteer: “Yesterday, a 5-year-old was with me for about 90 minutes.  He was delightful and bright and curious and very funny.  When I got up to leave, I thanked him for reading with me.  He replied, ‘You’re welcome. Are you going to miss me?’  I assured him I would and told him I hoped he would have his turn with the doctor soon.  He said, “Oh, I saw the doctor a long time ago.  I told Papa I wanted to read with you so he’s been waiting to take me home.”  That kind man had sat patiently for over 90 minutes AFTER they saw the doctor so his son and I could read.”

One HCMC physician said, “I see families eager to bring in kids for their well visits since they know the kids will also get a book and that we will talk with them about what we see in their child’s development while we interact over the book.  I see sibs asking, “Can I bring home a book, too?” and we find them one of our stash of gently used books that docs bring in from home, thrift shops, and the hospital’s warehouse of gently used books.  I’ve seen parents that were not getting their kids in for regular vaccinations or well visits start coming regularly to their scheduled well visits because there is something to look forward to: to learn about, to improve their child’s life and education, to be involved (especially as Spanish-speaking parents) with reading to their child from a book in their OWN language.  It’s so exciting.”

That’s why I got so fired up about the Children’s Literacy Program and decided give give a portion of sales to the group. So if you’re looking for last minute Christmas gifts, Off the Beaten Page is available from Amazon and barnesaandnoble.com You’ll also be giving the gift of children’s literacy. You can read more about the HCMC program and learn how to contribute time, talent or treasure at www.hcmc.org/read. Storage space is limited, so please contact Children’s Literacy Liaison Lynne Burke if you are interested in making an in-kind donation.

Book Club Travel Tales

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Cindy Hudson with her daughters.

I’m hearing more and more stories from book club members about the terrific lit trips, large and small, that their groups have taken.  I love it! So, I’m starting a new category for this blog: “Book Club Travel Tales,” where you can find ideas in one spot, over there in the right hand column.

In previous posts, for example, I’ve mentioned the travels and events of Go On Girl! Book Club.  Here’s a new addition to the list, a Q and A interview with Cindy Hudson of Portland Oregon.  She is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs and has a great blog on the same topic, MotherDaughterBookClub.com. Not surprisingly, she’s active in more than one book group and here she shares a few of their travel experiences.

What kind of trips or outings has your book club enjoyed?

Over the years, I’ve gone on several outings with my book groups. After one group read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which focuses on eating locally, we organized a wine tasting day with a potluck lunch focused on ingredients from a local farmers market. We talked to the winegrowers, sipped a bit of their wine and ate incredible food. We discussed what we had learned about eating locally as well as ideas we had for changing their food habits going forward. The pictures from that day show all of us with big smiles. The event was such a hit we knew that we’d be looking at other opportunities to take our group on the road at least once a year.”

We’ve had several movie events, too. We went to see the movie Millions when we read the book by Frank Cottrell Boyce, and we went to see The Secret Life of Bees when we read that book. Also, there were several weekends away that were not book themed, rather they were a chance for us all to get away together and have fun, and we also talked about the book we had read.

Why not just stay home and do your regular meeting?  Why go on an outing or trip? 

Going out as a group is not only fun, it helps you see a side of other members in your group that you don’t get to see in your regular meeting setting. I’ve gone on outings with my mother-daughter book clubs and in the reading group I’m in with my husband, and in each case, we aim for one or two what we call “field trips” a year.

Do these trips bring the members of your group closer together?   

I have found that there’s never enough time to socialize with everyone at book club. In only a few hours we have dinner, try to catch up with other members about what has happened in their lives in the last month or so, and discuss the book. When I go on outings or weekends away I treasure the relaxed atmosphere and the ability to really spend time one-on-one with others in the group. And there’s always a lot of laughing during group time.

Once, when I was on a weekend away with my mother-daughter book club, we started playing music after dinner and the moms began to dance. We all had a good laugh when the girls expressed surprise that their moms would want to dance. They found out we’re people too, and sometimes we just want to have fun.

Any tips or suggestions for people organizing book-related travel?

Make sure you have a good idea of budget before hand. You don’t want to plan something at a luxury hotel if some of the members of your group won’t be able to afford it. Also, if you do go away for a night or more, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for people to branch off and go on their own adventures as well as stay with the group.

Follow Cindy on Twitter at twitter.com/momdtrbookclub

 

New study: more books/reading equals educational achievement

I ran across an article in Miller-McCune about an interesting study that correlates the impact of books in the home with children’s success in education. “Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics,” reports the study, recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.

But we book lovers already knew this.