Travel the world – Read books out loud


You never know what kids will remember, especially from books read out loud. As a child, in summer our family camped in the California mountains; by lantern after dark and on rainy days, my mother read to us in our tent.

She read chapter books, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Around the World in 80 Days, The Wind in the Willows, Sherlock Holmes, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, to my two brothers and I, as we sprawled on our sleeping bags, rain cascading down the tent above our heads.

Years later when our kids were small, we sat on the couch and read picture books together, but I also read chapter books out loud.

Of course, there was The The Iliad and The Odyssey, remembered from my childhood, and it’s a fabulous adventure (boys especially like all the Greek and Trojan heroes). As a parent, I wanted to be like Odysseus, who brings his ship back from extraordinary places to his family, and home.

Tip: And more Travel for Kids favorites: Tales from Odyssey (Magic Tree House), and a beautifully illustrated The Odyssey.

Reading out loud in our camping tent was a family tradition, but there were also books to read before going on a trip.

Having traveled and lived in Asia, I read the Indian epics the Mahabharata and Ramayana to our boys before we took off on a family trip to Rajasthan.

The Mahabharata is a story of kingdoms at war, the Pandava brothers – Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhistira, Nakula & Sahadeva – and Kauravas. Filled with Hindu gods and goddesses, warriors, saints, heroism and villany, the climax of the book is a great battle on the Kurushetra Plain.

In the Ramayana, lovely Sita, wife of Rama, is kidnapped by the powerful ten-headed demon Ravana. Rama (incarnation of the god Vishnu) gathers an army, and aided by the magical monkey Hanuman, goes off to rescue Sita.

Tip: Here’s another version of Ramayana: Divine Loophole, retold and illustrated in a contemporary style.

Reading these two books (in shortened prose versions) was the best thing, because traveling in India the story of the Mahabharata and Ramayana is everywhere you go. We saw Rama and Sita, Arjuna and Bhima in sculptures on temples, in paintings, in dance.

If you don’t finish reading a book before departing on a trip, bring it along, eBooks don’t take up any room. Also enjoy reading out loud to kids, as soon enough, they’ll read on their own.

Elizabeth Young