Education Matters: Pack your bags, it's time to travel

By Carol Klages
June 22, 2013 at 1:22 a.m.

While, unfortunately, you did not win an all-expense-paid vacation, you can travel to distant lands through books.

Summer leaves lots of time to sleep late, watch TV and hang out. However, if you want your kids to be more productive this summer, hand them a book and say, "Let's read!" Better yet, say, "Let's read together!"

With the popularity of e-books, it is easy to access many choices. All the books mentioned in this article are available at Hastings, Barnes & Noble and online retailers. Think of reading and sharing together as a family book club. It's a much cheaper way to travel to new lands and meet interesting people without having to pay for airport parking.

A new children's picture book, "Ball" by Mary Sullivan, is easy for beginning readers, as it only has one word throughout the story - "ball." This book is a great read-aloud, as the main character, a dog, follows his red ball through the house.

The predicaments the dog puts his ball in are great for using various voices and tones. "Ball" can help new readers see different ways one word can be used in a story. The family can take turns reading to each other to determine who has the best "dog voices."

If you fancy a vacation at the beach, try "Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever or Snack Time." It is a colorful romp under the sea with two friends - a shark and best pal minnow. The humorous story has Fang left out of minnow school.

The author uses the familiar theme that being different is OK when you are friends. Illustrator Michael Slack has created colorful underwater scenes that flow perfectly. This is an easy book for the entire family.

Middle school students will enjoy Jerry Spinelli's novel, "Jake and Lily," where twins learn to be independent from each other. The novel is realistic for every brother and sister trying to get along while finding out how to be individuals.

There is a great deal of humor in this novel, but it is realistic in its approach to sibling relationships. After everyone reads the novel, plan a family book discussion to share your thoughts and experiences with siblings.

Two novels stand out for high school students: "Payback Time" by Carl Deucker and "Now is the Time for Running" by Michael Williams.

Deucker's novel is about football and secrets, and the Williams novel is about soccer. While sports are an important aspect, they are not the focus.

"Payback Time" follows two high school reporters solving the mystery of Angel, the solitary defensive end. Williams describes the struggles of two teenage refugee boys from Zimbabwe who play soccer to temporarily forget their struggles.

Many other books and novels are available for the family to read together. It is a way to spend quality time together without the hassle of packing a suitcase. Enjoy your travels.

Carol Klages is an associate professor in the University of Houston-Victoria School of Education & Human Development. Her research interests include the role reading plays in content area instruction and how teacher educators perceive teaching and learning using technology.



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