Making Summer Reading Lists Sparkle Through Travel
Most schools assign summer reading and writing assignments to promote childhood literacy throughout the year. However, even children who enjoy reading can find these mandatory assignments a chore. School librarians (1) point out that students are likely to find classic, historic fiction dull and irrelevant, but teachers craft the traditional reading lists to help students to build their vocabulary in preparation for standardized tests. Travel is one way that parents can bring the classics to life while having fun on family vacations. Here are some vacation destination ideas that correspond to timeless literary works.
Touring the American Northeast
The American Northeast is an area of firsts. For instance, it was one of the first areas to rebel against English dominance during the American Revolution, and it was the site of famous conflicts like the battles of Lexington and Concord as well as the Boston Tea Party. Books like Johnny Tremain and Paul Revere by Esther Forbes can be the inspiration for taking in tours and theatrical performances in historic Boston.
Arguably, there is no place like New York City which serves as the primary backdrop of The Great Gatsby that was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel, which takes place during the summer of 1922, is consistently found on today’s summer reading lists. The story describes a financial Golden Age for some enterprising Americans and the excesses that often come with that rapid rise in wealth. Hindsight shows that the good financial times were only temporary and would be followed by the 1929 stock market crash. Today, families can have fun traipsing around New York City and visiting Great Gatsby-era Gold Coast mansions (2) in Long Island.
Exploring the American South
The plots of many classic American literary works take place south of the Mason-Dixon line. Children, who must read Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, would have a blast taking a cruise down the Mississippi River and following the path taken by fictional Huck Finn and his runaway slave friend named Jim. One of the area’s popular, replica paddle wheel cruise ships (3) offers an authentic Southern experience complete with luxury staterooms, fine dining, modern amenities and even a Mark Twain library and chart room.
A number of Civil War-era plantations are still standing and can be toured while on vacation in the South. These manor homes and surrounding farms give older children contextual background when they read novels like award-winning Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. After exploring the plantations, family vacations can culminate with visits to Atlanta, Georgia which is the actual setting of Mitchell’s Civil War novel. The now cosmopolitan city is home to the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum (4).
Historic fiction that is heavily sprinkled with Old English diction can make many young people quickly lose interest in classic story plots. However, literature like The Canterbury Tales that was written by Geoffrey Chaucer, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas become food for the imagination when exploring the world renown cities of London and Paris in which these novels were set.
Great literature has always been a vehicle to escape into another time or place. Coupling classic literary works with first-rate travel is the ultimate learning experience for adults and children of all ages.