Let’s face it, travel is off the agenda for most of us, but that doesn’t mean our children’s natural need to explore and discover should be put on hold as well. While we may be at home, your child can still set off on magical adventures and discover new worlds with the help of books.
Most of you will already know that the team at A Growing Understanding love books. Not just because they are a great way to build your child’s vocabulary and language skills, but because they can transport you and your child to new worlds, both real and imaginary. Your child could explore a winter wonderland, a fairy kingdom, a dinosaur island, deep blue oceans, magical mountains, glittering cities, and more, just by turning the pages of a beautiful book. So, let’s set off on a journey of discovery, and see where books can take us.
Imagination is the Best Travel Ticket
Children naturally have a capacity to dream big and use their imaginations. Reading aloud and sharing stories with your child will help them use their imaginations to explore people, places, times, and events beyond their own experiences. You can help your child build on those experiences and contextualise what they have discovered by asking what we call ‘WH questions’ – you know, the good ol’ what, when, where why and who questions. By asking your child about the story you are reading together, helping them make predictions about what will happen next, and discussing the illustrations can help your child engage with the story and gain so much more from it.
For example, you could ask your child: “What do you think will happen when the girl arrives at the new place?” This will encourage your child to engage their imagination, take cues from the illustrations on the page and maybe even draw on their own experiences to come up with an answer.
Similarly, you can enrich the experience for your child by asking about the feelings and thoughts the character in the story may be experiencing. You could ask: “How do you think the girl will feel when she arrives at the new place?”, and then follow this question with “Why do you think the girl would feel that way?” Again, this will help your child dive into the world of the character, adopt an empathetic mindset (even if they don’t really understand what that is just yet) and try and understand how these new experiences may make them feel.
We know that the most memorable travel experiences are those that are enriched with feelings, thoughts, colours, tastes, sounds and sights. When it comes to travelling and discovering new worlds with books, this is much the same. Sure, you can’t necessarily taste or smell what the character might be enjoying, but you can encourage your child to image how they may feel, and what it might look, and sound like through discussions and questions about the story and illustrations.
We want our children from a young age to understand that it is the differences of people, places, cultures, thoughts, and experiences that make the world so interesting and beautiful. Through shared story reading, you can help your child build an understanding of diversity and how people in different parts of the world (and even time periods) live, celebrate, eat, work, travel and so much more.
Children’s books use colourful illustrations, different words, and exciting characters to draw a child’s attention and spark imaginative thoughts. As a parent, you can utilise these elements to start conversations about diversity and you can ask your child questions that can help them draw comparisons with their world or understand how the world they are reading about might be different.
For example, if the story is about a city, you could encourage your child to think about the city they live in or reflect on the last time they visited a big city. You can help your child make comparisons by asking them what is different to their experiences i.e. “How is the girls house different to our house?” This will help your child relate the story to their own experiences, build an understanding of how parts of the world are different or similar, grow their vocabulary, and help them gain a deeper understanding of diversity.
Ready to Let Imaginations Soar?
By introducing books that explore new places, people, situations, thoughts, and feelings; you are well on your way to helping your child discover new worlds from the comfort of their home.
To help you kick off the adventure, here are six books that embrace the concepts of discovery, diversity, and exploration:
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
As this children’s book weaves it way across cultures and generations, your child will be taken on an adventure that will expose to them to the varying cultures living in Australia. Every day children all over our country are laughing and crying, playing and learning, eating and sleeping. They may not look the same or speak the same language, but inside, they are just like you (your child).
Welcome to Our World by Moira Butterfield
Through beautiful illustrations and language, this book can teach your child about what people in other countries eat, wear and play, and how they speak and celebrate. It also shows all of us that despite different languages, customs, and traditions, it really is a small world, after all.
The Snail and The Whale by Julia Donaldson
That drive and passion to explore and discover the world is ever-present in this beautifully illustrated book. Your child can join the curious snail on a journey to the bottom of the sea, and far off islands of snow and sand when they hitch a ride on a whale’s tail. Through the fun rhyming rhythm your child will be encouraged to dream big and do more than they ever thought they could.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss
Celebrating all of life’s ups and downs, this book looks at adventure a little differently, but may encourage your child to discover more than just a new landmark or place in the world. Using fun language and rhyming words, this book will encourage your child to dream of all the places they may visit one day.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Your child can travel to France with well-known Madeline. The original Madeline, written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans in 1939, features iconic French landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Church of Sacré-Cœur. At the end of the book, there is a list of all the Parisian sights that appear throughout the story. You can use this list to the identify each of them as you read aloud with your child.
Super, Spectacular Pearlie by Wendy Harmer
Including a collection of seven stories, this book joins Pearlie the Park Fairy on a journey around the world. Travelling by ladybird, Pearlie joins fairy friends in well-known parks and places including Central Park, New York, The Park of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, Japan, Tijuca Forest in Rio, Brazil, and many more magical places. The stories also include languages, activities, animals, and beautiful illustrations that will help your child gain an understanding of the beauty and diversity of each place.