Summer travel provides one of the best inspirations for summer writing because vacations are often eagerly anticipated, filled with new exciting experiences, and a standout of the summer — giving kids something personal and special to write about. Kids can write about their vacation in an ongoing journal (e.g., a daily journal, summer journal, or a travel journal). Another option is to encourage kids to write a “vacation book” — a journal/diary in book format that is specifically for the current vacation with its own cover, pictures, and beginning/middle/ending. Vacation books are a fantastic way to get kids engaged in their summer writing and to create a meaningful keepsake at the same time. (Writing nonfiction sequential text is also one of the five main types of informational texts that primary grade kids need to learn to read and write, so this activity is aligned with Common Core State Standards as well.)
Here are some things to keep in mind when helping your kids write a summer vacation book:
- Encourage your kids to write a sequential narrative of their experiences, thoughts, and feelings while you are on vacation, preferably with some writing on each day of your travels and with dates linked to each entry.
- Encourage your kids to add a picture to complement each entry, either drawn by the child or with photographs (space can be left open for when photographs are printed). Kids can also add souvenir items collected while on vacation, such as ticket stubs, maps, and pictures cut out from brochures
- Vacation books can be made using traditional lined notebooks. Kids can also make their own books with loose leaf paper, scrapbook paper, and staplers, rings, or ribbon. Or, our family favorite — they can use authentic blank books from Barebooks or Lakeshore Learning.
- Take along a variety of materials to allow for creativity and added fun, including colored pencils and markers, glue and scissors, even colored scraps of paper and stickers.
- Younger kids who aren’t conventional writers can make vacation books too, by dictating their thoughts (while parent transcribes) or writing phonetically with some parent support. (Phonetic spelling — writing the words based on their sounds — is an important part of learning to read.)
- Your kids’ focus should be the content of what they write — their thoughts and feelings — with less emphasis on grammar and punctuation.
- Allow your kids’ entries to be as simple or as elaborate and detailed as they want. Avoid word or sentence minimums, and avoid judging. Praise their efforts. If you can engender pride in the vacation books, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and to want to write more!
- Remind the kids to make covers for their vacation books. Add a title specific to the trip, the author’s name, the date, and maybe an illustration or a photograph.
And, above all, apply summer reading STARs (see Tip #7) to kids’ vacation books writing. Talk about the kids’ plan for writing and see if you can come to an agreement on how frequently to write. Discuss the best time for writing, where writing will occur, and make the materials readily available and visible. If you can come up with a vacation book writing ritual, it is more likely to become an integrated and routine part of your travels.
In Our Family… Authoring vacation books is one of our family’s very favorite writing activities, something the kids do at least once each summer as part of their travels. We have done for several years (since the kids were toddlers and young preschoolers), and it has become a “vacation regular” that the kids expect, plan for, and look forward to. It is part of our vacation planning — getting the needed/desired materials (i.e., do you want to use a blank book or make your own, do you want lines or no lines, a big or small book) and discussing when will likely be the best time to write. This year, the kids decided to make the cover the day before we left, which increased excitement for the trip and set the stage for subsequent writing.
While the kids all have personal journals for everyday reflections, they take great pride in creating (and then having) these separate vacation books (we’ve almost always used board book or hardcover Barebooks materials). Not only are they an opportunity to do some meaningful summer writing, but they become an invaluable souvenir and keepsake, one that the kids love to show off and share with others. Upon returning from a trip, they add fininishing touches and some photos, and they read their book aloud to the family. And the book then gets stored in our family library, becoming a cherished read-aloud choice long after the trip is done.
If you can’t tell, this is a summer tradition that I am crazy about and hope my kids will want do for a long time!