So you want to continue your ritual of reading books to your children before bed when you are travelling but you don’t have the capacity to carry lots of books due to weight?
I have a few easy solutions for you. Here are my top twelve solutions to meeting your child’s reading needs in a van.
- FREE!! Sign up to Borrow Box – Download the app Borrow Box on your tablet or phone, sign in with a current library card and pin and borrow away! There are ebooks and audio books available to borrow like any other library. This app is easy to use, you can search for titles and your loans are good for two weeks. My kids have enjoyed titles like Zac Powers, The 13 Storey Treehouse collection by Andy Griffiths, titles by Paul Jennings and Tom Gates. Just be warned that this app will seriously spam your email account relentlessly with borrows, returns and holds but it is a small sacrifice for a great free app.
- FREE!! Sign up to Libby by Overdrive – Basically the same thing as Borrow Box and same procedure but this app offers different titles. I have found some of my kids favourites on Libby like Weirdo by Anh Do, Captain Underpants by Dave Pilker and titles by Tom Gates. Libby also offers many choices of picture books for reading to your younger children. The only real difference I have found between these two apps other than the books they offer is that Libby loans are only for one week. Sign up for both, why not? It’s free!
- FREE!! Create an account on Read Theory – This website is geared for a child who can already read and needs to develop their comprehension skills. My Year 2 son gave this a go and as long as you have internet service then it is an awesome free resource. I would recommend this one as being suitable for the older student who needs a bit of a challenge. Upon creating an account your child will be prompted to answer some questions to determine the level of difficulty.
- Purchase a membership with Sunshine Online or Reading Eggs – I personally prefer Sunshine Online. Membership prices are similar between the two, however I find Reading Eggs to be a little rigid. When a child completes their testing they are ‘stuck’ on the level that has been allocated to them whereas Sunshine Online you have the freedom to select the level you need to work on. I find this better as it makes it more versatile for a family as you only require the one membership and it can be utilised by the whole family. Both Reading Eggs and Sunshine Online are suitable for children who are non-readers (i.e. still learning letter sounds, etc through to about a Year 2 level). If your child excels in reading and has surpassed a level 30PM in their class at school then don’t bother with these apps you would be wasting your money. You can also check out Epic and Raz-kids which are similar to Sunshine Online and Reading Eggs, however I personally would recommend the two listed above. They are the most widely used in schools. Please don’t feel like you need to sign up to both, trial them and subscribe to the one you prefer.
- Visit op shops, second hand book stores and markets for books and comics.
- Trade or share books with people you meet along the way.
- Try packing a few ‘choose your own adventure’ style books that will offer excitement if read more than once.
- Pack books that have a collection of stories within the one book – Classic bedtime story collection books are great but in our van we have an Avengers one that is a hit.
- FREE!! Visit local libraries – Spend time just chilling out and reading together. You could join and borrow, just ask but if you don’t want to worry about the hassle of that then just visit. Great activity on a rainy day.
- Buy your child some magazines that are suitable for their reading level and age. They are light weight and high interest. Our boys have really enjoyed getting the Transformers magazine each month. We get the one magazine for them to share and they read it over and over again and love the activities.
- If your kids are really only just learning to read and in their first year of schooling I would also suggest making your own books with simple drawings by you or your child. Keep them super basic like an “I can ….” book (I can swim, I can walk, I can eat, I can talk, I can jump, I can hop). You can also make “I am …”, “That is …”, “There is my ….” And “I can see a …” In these I would suggest just simple drawings. Simply use folded A4 paper to create your book. This is a beautiful task to do together and then enjoy reading.
- Create your own simple photo book with basic text – A photo book with a simple explanation of what is happening in the picture also provides hours of enjoyment because it is personal to your child. I have made these over the years and honestly my children read and re-read them over and over. Usually I would make this with a simple small, square scrapbook because I like the plastic sleeves which provide protection for the pages. Print a picture and hand write in some bold and easy to read text. I.e. “This is my brother and I”. “We are at the beach looking for shells”.
As much as formal reading has substantial benefits for your child, please remember to recognise the opportunities that arise within your environment. Every time you visit a significant site like an art gallery, museum or science centre you are exposing your child to literacy. Read street signs and other signage together and discuss their meanings, read information signs at landmarks to your children and ask them some questions to see if they have understood. Read brochures together as a part of your research and planning and encourage your child to help at the information centre looking for brochures and books. Exposing your child to these types of literacy is easy, but taking the time to encourage them to deeply think about something, clarify their understanding and have a conversation about it takes it to the next level. You will be drastically increasing your child’s vocabulary and not to mention their love for reading and ability to understand first hand the importance of being able to read.