The Best Travel Books for Kids

By sara / January 31, 2017

One of the best ways for teaching kids about the world is through reading. According to an article from Children First Foundation USA, children get higher grades and a boost in their confidence when they travel. Reading about different countries may stir their interest in visiting someday. There are several excellent books for grades K-3 that introduce different countries and cultures in an enjoyable way that they can understand. Children learn to respect others who may look, dress, and think differently in other parts of the world. At the same time, they find empathy in the many similarities we all share. Here are some of the best travel books for kids that teachers, parents, and their children can share to discover new places:

Africa

It is difficult the discuss the horrors of terrorism with children. This book displays the compassion of strangers across the world during one of America’s darkest hours. After witnessing the tragedy of 9/11, a man returns to his native Massai village in Kenya and describes the awful event. The villagers are moved with compassion for the Americans and decide that they should offer a gift to help. Their gift of 14 cows represents a sacrifice of true friendship. This story transcends race, culture, and nationality and displays the empathy of the global family in a way for children to comprehend.

There are many children who must deal with the loss of a parent, and books can be useful tools. In this poignant story, eleven-year-old Martine is suddenly orphaned, and she is sent to live with her grandmother whom she has never known. Her grandmother lives on a wildlife reserve in the plains of Africa. While adjusting to her new surroundings and the culture of South Africa, Martine hears the villagers talk about the white giraffe, a mythical animal that supposedly lives in the area. This is a fun adventure to take with young readers as Martine finds if the white giraffe is fact or fiction.

This book for middle schoolers is based on a true story about two children in Sudan. The boy’s story begins in 1985 and the girl’s in 2008. Both of them are 11 years-old at the time of their story. Salva, the boy, roams over Africa searching for his family and a place of refuge. He is one of Sudan’s “lost boys”. He must endure unspeakable dangers from armed rebels and wild animals. The second story in the book revolves around the girl, Nya. Twice a day, she must make a two-hour journey on foot to get her family water from a pond. In a touch of fate, Salva’s and Nya’s paths meet to weave a touching and beautiful story. It teaches children about the hardships in third-world countries and the resilience of the human spirit.

Anyone who has ever played the game of “telephone” as a child knows how quickly facts can get distorted down the line. People end up telling a version of the story that rarely resembles the first one. In Verna Aardema’s Caldecott Award winner, a crisis hits the African jungle when a mosquito tells a story to an iguana and everything is lost in translation. The stunning illustrations in the book make it an ideal story to read to younger children. Through the antics of the West African insects and animals, children learn the importance of clear communication and telling the truth.

Asia

The summers in northern India are notoriously hot. The sights and sounds of the country come alive through the senses of a little girl who is waiting for the rain. Each page is a rich pastel that illustrates the inspiring culture of everyday life in India. Readers see the busy market place and all of the hundreds of shoppers trying to finish their work in the sweltering heat. Everyone is eagerly waiting for the skies to open up and shower them with the cool, healing rain. Children will enjoy reading about the climate and culture of this fascinating country.

Young readers can explore the ancient Japanese Samurai culture with this story of a canine overlord who has his castle overrun by an evil rat. He turns to his friends, three powerful Samurai cats. The first cat brandishes his mighty sword and is struck down by the agile rat. When the second Samurai cat approaches the fiendish vermin in a suit of armor, he also fails to win the battle. The hope of the castle lies in the third Samurai cat, who is old an raggedy. Could he have a secret weapon that will save the day? This book highlights Japanese culture, martial arts, and overcoming bullying with wit.

In this beautifully illustrated book, children learn a lesson in honesty with a little boy who loves to grow flowers. Set in ancient China, young Ping hears that the Emperor is choosing a successor by using a test. The emperor hands out flower seeds to the children across his kingdom. He declares that the child who brings him the most beautiful pot of flowers would be the next emperor. Even though Ping nurtures his seed to the best of his ability, nothing grows. What will the Emperor say when all of Ping’s peers have beautiful blossoms, and he stands with an empty pot? Some things are not always as they seem.

China has some of a fascinating histories in the world, and this book shares it in a fun way for children. The author takes them on a journey into past Chinese dynasties, culture, and the building of the Great Wall. The book has illustrations that make the story easier to understand. Young readers can enjoy the Great Wall trivia questions in the book and see similarities in Chinese culture with their own. Kids can have fun while they are learning valuable history lessons.

Europe

The Sasek series of children’s travel books are probably familiar to most teachers and parents, since they may have read them as children. This is Rome is part of the series from the 70s that describes the history and culture of some of the greatest cities in Europe. Every book has been lovingly reprinted with the original illustrations, including updates that bring it to modern day. Right from the comforts of their reading chair, children can study the historical events that made Rome what it is now. They can appreciate some of the city’s fascinating architecture and renowned monuments. After traveling to Rome, they will want to visit other famous cities that are highlighted in Sasek’s collection.

Young readers can soar over the snowy lands of Russia in this re-telling of a classic Slavic folktale. According to legend, there is nothing in the world as amazingly beautiful as the firebird. The problem is, no one has ever seen it. Determined to set eyes on the elusive bird, the Tsar’s youngest son, Ivan Tsarevitch, sets out on a precarious journey. He encounters a talking wolf after flying an impossible path over the mountain tops. He bravely defends himself against the wicked witch, Baba Yaga, and challenges Koshchei the Immortal to save a magical princess. The enchanting finale of the story and its awesome illustrations are delightful for adults and children alike.

Stories of the mythical Greek gods and goddesses have enchanted readers for centuries. This great edition brings the immortal residents of Mt. Olympus to life in a way that children of all ages can enjoy. They will be spellbound with the grand illustrations and the celestial adventures of the Greek divinity. While reading or listening to these stories, children will find that the immortals were fallible and often made disastrous decisions. Each adventure gives readers morals to think about and the consequences of our actions.

North America

Native American tribes have a vast oral history of legends and delightful folklore. This Navajo folktale is re-told with enchanting illustrations that make it an ideal read-aloud book for younger children. According to the legend, the First Woman wanted to write the laws of the land for everyone to see. So, she tried to use the stars in the sky. Her efforts were foiled by the perennial trickster, Coyote. This is a lovely story that shares Native American customs and their sacred mythology.

Beginners can reinforce their knowledge of the alphabet and its sounds while perusing some of the greatest treasures in Canada. They will learn about various highlights in Canadian culture, history, and its people. The illustrations in M is for Maple are truly outstanding. This fun book presents Canada in a unique way that can be enjoyable for readers of any age.

It is a blessing to find a beginners book that can illustrate the unconditional love of parents for their children. In this little board book set in Alaska, a little girl has a meaningful conversation with her mother about love. It has pretty illustrations of the Alaskan landscape. She invents different situations that she may be in, and asks her mother would she love her still. In each instance, the gentle Inuit mother reassures her daughter of her unending love. This would be an excellent gift for new parents.

Children can learn about Spanish customs for the holidays in this beautiful book. While she was helping her mother make tamales for their holiday celebration, Maria decides to try on Mama’s precious diamond ring. Mama had taken it off while she was cooking and went to another room to get some more ingredients. Before she can take the ring off, Maria accidently loses it in the tamale batch. This warm tale of zany family holidays teaches other customs and the importance of togetherness.

Pacific Regions

This book for younger children is a tale of the enduring friendship between a boy and a penguin. When the little boy finds a penguin sitting on his doorstep, he assumes the bird was lost. They embark on a journey to the South Pole to find the penguin’s home. While they are traveling the frozen waters, they encounter several bad storms. There are still good times on the trip, as the boy shares stories with the penguin. When they finally reach the South Pole, the penguin decides that all he wanted in the first place was a friend. The book has pretty pictures and is an ideal read-aloud story.

Most children love to read books about animals. In this delightful diary, they get to meet the Australian wombat. The wombat chronicles a hectic week in his life, filled with digging holes, eating, and taking long naps. He says that he enjoys training his humans to give him treats on signal. Readers will immediately find pleasure in the funny text and illustrations. They may even see some similarities they share with this cuddly-looking creature.

It is not easy for parents to balance careers and family time. Sometimes, children can feel lost in the hustle of daily living. Koala Lou feels like her mother is too busy to give her enough attention and does not love her anymore. Determined to make her mother proud and win back her affection, Koala Lou decides to participate in the Bush Olympics. This is a wonderfully illustrated story that reminds busy parents the importance of spending time with their little ones. It also reassures young readers that they will always be loved.

Coming-of-age stories and those that involve gender equality are popular with middle school readers. In this touching story from the East Coast of New Zealand, a young girl tries desperately to win the approval and attention of her great-grandfather. He is the chief of the Maori tribe, which claims that they descended from the fabled “whale rider.” Kahu is the only heir to her great-grandfather, and he is adamant that a woman cannot lead the tribe. When the whale population is threatened on the coast, Kahu’s amazing abilities may change his way of thinking. This story helps young people understand the struggles against bias that arises in all cultures, and how love and understanding can overcome them.

South America

There is nothing as fun as out-tricking a trickster, and Cuy the guinea pig proves it. This tale is set in the Andes Mountains and has a definite South American voice. Tio Antonio spies Cuy searching for wild spinach, and thinks he has found his lunch! The fox may be smart, but the guinea pig is smarter. Youngsters will giggle as they read about how Cuy fools the fox three times. The block artwork is superb and children will learn the importance of problem-solving.

This is an excellent book that exposes children to the wonders of the Amazon Rain Forest and the importance of conservation. The author, Lynne Cherry, actually visited areas of the forest to write this enduring book of a man who tried to chop down a giant kapok tree. Exhausted from his work, he decides to lie on the grass and take a little nap. While he naps, various creatures of the forest whisper in his ear about how important trees and all living things are in the web of life. Even a child from an Amazonian tribe whispers some truths into the sleeping man’s ear. Young readers can feel a connection with the environment when they read this book and admire the beautiful illustrations.

In may come as a shock to some of our children that not everyone in the world has easy access to books. This bilingual story is based on the true story of a librarian who dreamed of bringing literacy to people in the remote mountains Colombia. Every month, he loads his little burros (named Alpha and Beta) with a cargo of new books. The village children wait eagerly for the Biblioburro to arrive. Children can enjoy this inspiring story in either Spanish or English.

Outer Space

A lot of kids dream about being an astronaut when they grow up. In this incredibly illustrated book, the author takes readers on a fantastic journey to the moon. It is written in the second person, so children feel like they are actually in the story. It is a perfect book for beginners as they learn about the moon, planets, stars, and outer space.