In an earlier tip (tip #13), I wrote about the importance of reading aloud over the summer (and all year long!). While Americans are now far more likely to read online than use other platforms, most parents don’t choose the internet as a read-aloud option for their kids. Reading aloud from the internet can add welcomed variety to a family’s read-aloud diet, especially since digital technology tends to be highly appealing to kids (as a supplement, not a replacement, to books). Most of the content on the internet is informational/nonfiction text, so reading aloud from the internet is also a great opportunity to give kids more experience with nonfiction text. Additionally, reading aloud from the internet is especially great for travel because (a) it is so portable, allowing for a bit of a decrease in the number of printed books that are brought, and (b) it allows for easy access to information about the travel destination that is specific (to the destination) and current.
Here are two easy ways to incorporate internet read-alouds into your family vacation:
1. Search the internet together for information about your travel destination, and then read aloud what you find. Look for information on your destination’s culture, history, local current events, demographics, landmarks, and tourist attractions. This is a great way to build world knowledge (which is super important for reading comprehension at all grade levels)! To supplement your online read alouds, try to get your hands on a local newspaper and read aloud from that as well.
A few places to start your search are:
- Time for Kids: http://www.timeforkids.com/around-the-world
- Global Trek by Scholastic
- Wikipedia for Kids
- World Almanac for Kids
2. Encourage the kids to ask questions related to your travel destination, then spend some time together searching for the answers and reading them aloud. From the start of your trip, try to create a climate of wondering by encouraging and celebrating kids’ questions. Brainstorm questions together about the destination, modeling your own thinking with statements that start off with “I wonder how…”. This week in the Dominican Republic, the kids have had many questions throughout the week, such as “Why is the ocean water here so blue?”, “Why is the water here so much warmer?”, “Why aren’t there any shells on this beach?”, “How far and how fast do dolphins usually swim (when doing a swim with the dolphins which raised concerns about their living in captivity). Some kids will naturally ask such questions; others need more help to get going. When parents join in on the question asking, we not only model how to do it, but we show our kids that asking questions is a way of engaging with our world, not just something for kids.
Then, let the kids’ questions guide some collaborative online investigation! Travel the internet together searching for and reading aloud the answers you find. Remember to help your kids consider whether the information you are reading is legitimate, accurate and current. To keep track of the questions when multiple are asked, it can be fun to write down kids’ questions, and then to record the answers you find in your internet searching and reading. For an even more elaborate writing project, kids can start a “Book of Summer Questions and Answers”, with each page containing a question, the information that you find, and even an illustration or photograph. (Question & Answer text is also a fairly common format for informational text, so it is helpful for kids to get some experience writing this type of text themselves.)
A few great search engines for children are:
Vacations often provide kids with new experiences that inspire new questions about the world. Pay attention to the questions, show interest in them, and show your kids that it’s not only important to ask questions, but also to seek answers to our questions. Collaborating with our kids to use the internet to seek answers to the family’s questions, and then reading the information aloud , is a fantastic way to build world knowledge as well as nurture your kids’ internet searching skills, which are super important to thrive in our world.