Traveling is one of the best ways to experience everything life has to offer. It is also tough to pull off, especially with kids. Instead of juggling passports, time zones, and phrase books, introduce your kids to a bit of Germany with some books that are set in Germany, written by Germans, or feature important aspects of German culture.
Hansel and Gretel, by Rika Lesser, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
This Caldecott Award winner is the consummate German fairy tale. Kids trekking through the woods, aiming to eat up a witch’s house, only to find that the tables turn on them. This version sticks slightly closer to the original German tale though, with an evil mother and a devoted father thrown into the mix. This double sided story either teaches kids to use their wits to get out of a sticky situation, or to not eat houses that belong to the elderly. Either way, both are valuable lessons.
The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, by Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Josef Scharl
Want to get the full spectrum of German fairy tales? Pick up this collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, written by the famous Brothers Grimm. Many Disney movies, TV shows, cartoons, and books have been spun off of these classic tales, but these originals cut to the quick. Older kids will appreciate that some of the stories are kind of scary; little kids will love the rhymes and the pictures. With over 200 characters and gorgeous illustrations, this is bound to be a book that everyone in the family will love.
Germany in Pictures (Visual Geography Series), by Jeffrey Zuehlke
With 80 pages of images from Germany’s scenic country side, young readers through teenagers will be given a glimpse into a land that looks like a storybook. Germany is home to famous rivers, picturesque castles, and cobblestone roads. Readers will also get to see some important sights from Germany’s history, including the Berlin Wall. For readers who are curious about what the world has to hold for them, this entry in the Visual Geography Series is a welcome addition.
My First Bilingual Book-Sports (English-German), by Milet Publishing
The earlier you introduce a new language to a young reader the easier time they will have learning it. Whether you and your family are headed off to Deutschland or you just want to expose your toddler to the beauty of a new language, grab this board book. Unlike other board books that teach multiple languages, this one pulls double duty in helping kids learn the English and German words for various sports. If German isn’t your language, the My First Bilingual Book Series has tons of other topics and languages.
German Picture Word Book: Learn over 500 Commonly Used German Words through Pictures, by Hayward Cirker
Aimed at middle grade readers, this introduction to the German language doubles as a coloring book to give readers a hands on experience. It includes seventeen different scenes, each with the basic words for items in houses, at businesses, on farms and more, and a wide overview of nouns and verbs are also shown. Any kid who really wants to begin a bilingual path will be completely engaged with this book (especially since a phrase book might not be right for them just yet).
Beethoven for Kids: His Life and Music with 21 Activities, by Helen Bauer
Despite the fact that he was born in Austria, Ludwig von Beethoven is one of Germany’s most famous composers. It isn’t always easy to get kids into Classical music, but here readers get a glimpse of his life, the area that he lived, and some of the basics of his musical techniques. Instead of telling your reader, “Listen, this is great music!” kids can get to know Beethoven the person, in addition to the great music he composed. If you want to introduce an even younger kid to Beethoven, check out this Peg + Cat DVD that features an episode about the terrific 5th Symphony.
Soccer, by Hugh Hornby
If Classical music isn’t your thing, try teaching your kids a bit about the most popular sport in Germany, and well, pretty much the world. Germany has won the World Cup, is home to the largest league, the Bundesliga, and sees some of the biggest financial investment in the sport. If you go to Germany you should be ready to talk football, and not the NFL kind. Other sports that follow close behind soccer in Germany are hockey, basketball, handball, and auto racing. Brush up on your European sports and your family just might be mistaken for locals.
How do you help your kids learn about other countries?