I have travelled a lot and I enjoy doing it.
I’ve travelled with my kids a lot and enjoy doing it.
To me, travel is the number one educator. It’s important. And I want my kids to appreciate both travel and education.
I don’t travel constantly. Even when I’m traveling, there’s downtime. So, that’s why I like books. They’re a way to experience new people and places. They’re a way to question the world and examine ideas that may not have been possible another way.
The simplest way to use books to teach kids about other cultures is to read to them. Find books through this website, or similar sites, or friend recommendations. Buy them online, at the bookstore, or borrow from friends or the library. Just get the books in your hand. Get the books in their hands.
How to use books to teach kids about other cultures
If you’re looking to step up your culture-learning game, here are some suggestions:
Go with a theme
In college I took a class about the Vietnam War in Books and Film. We watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books. I’ve never been to Vietnam and I’ve never been in a war. I learned so much, though, after reading and watching so many interpretations of the war.
This can also be applied to travel books. Instead of just reading a random book, focus on a theme for a period of time. Over the course of a week or a month, only read books set in one destination. You’ll start to notice patterns in the place that may have gone unnoticed before. This will improve any discussion, which is my next point.
Hot Tip: Blindfold your child and have them point to a spot on a map or a globe to find your first theme.
Discuss the books
Since we’re talking about travel books, how does the setting of the book affect the story? How would it be different if it was set in your hometown? Is there a similar type of story that has the same themes, but are set somewhere else?
If it’s a non-fiction book, what are some of the most noticeable similarities and differences between the place in the books and home? What is interesting about this place and what do you want to learn more about? Many book publishers have follow-up questions for discussion on their websites.
Hot tip: Consider keeping a journal to jot down notes of some of the impressions the kid learned about the place visited via the page.
Use all senses
Maybe these books have pictures already, maybe though don’t. Do a quick google image search about some of the things mentioned in the book that are unfamiliar to your child. For example, if the book is set in Munich, you may want to look up pictures of the English Garden or the main train station.
Listen to music from the place. Don’t know where to start? Try youtube. You can even find cartoons from other countries in the world to hear how the language sounds.
Then try some foods from the country. One of my favorite resources is Food in Every Country. In addition to several recipes per country, they also tell a little about the food history of the country. I’ve tried several dishes from this site. They’re easy and delicious.
Finally, check out other family travel bloggers. Search for other personal experiences to gain a more well-rounded view of the country.
Hot tip: Pinterest! Do a pinterest search for whatever country you’re learning about and you will find a million (or less) options for games, photos, food, music, and more.
Well, get out. If the place you’re reading about is a place you can travel to, find a way to make it happen. Especially if it’s a place that really sparks your child’s sense of adventure. You don’t have to do it within this year, but keep it on your radar.
If this is impossible, find out if there’s a place closer that can be similar. Restaurants are an easy option. Museums or special events are another fun way to have a global experience locally.
If you think there’s nothing near you, look again. I spent years in Germany and realized shortly before we left that I lived within 2 miles of a museum called the “Soul of Africa”. There’s no way I would’ve guessed that. I assumed all the local museums were dedicated to European or German art.
Now that I’m in the states, there are special events throughout the year for various international celebrations. One of my favorites, Scottish Highlands Games, are so fun. They’re more than 2 miles from where I live, but a lot closer than a trip to Scotland. You just have to know to look.
Hot tip: Bigger cities usually have some kind of organization for people from different countries. They’re a great resource when looking for local activities.
So, here are some ideas to get you started. How do you use books to teach your kids about other cultures?