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Reading & Language

Reading Activities in the Car

Mother and son in a car

Most of us ride in a car, or on a bus or train, as part of our daily routine. This can be a nice “together-time” for you and your child. Children love to look out the window. They also like to feel the motion of the car, bus, or train. Turn riding time into talking, singing and playing time!


Ride and Sing.  Your child loves the sound of your voice and he does not care if you can’t sing. But if you are shy, the car is the perfect place to sing out loud. You can sing popular rhymes like “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky…” You can also sing songs that you remember from your own childhood. As you sing these songs again and again, your child will learn the words. Soon he will be singing with you.

Fast and Slow.  You can use the motion of the vehicle to help your child learn describing words. As the car moves, change the sound of your voice. For example, as the car or bus speeds up, you can say “Fast, fast!” as you say the words fast. As the car or bus slows down, you can say “Slow, s…l…o…w” as you make your voice very slow. As your child gets used to these words, try new words like “rapid,” “quick,” and “turning.”

So Much to See.  Once your toddler can see out the window from her car seat, the view provides lots and lots of places and things to name. “There’s the mall!” As you name the things you pass, give some information that relates the place or thing to your child.  For example, say “That’s where we bought your new shoes!” or “Look at that big tree. That’s bigger than our favorite tree at the park!”


Reading Signs.  Even very young children will recognize signs and symbols for favorite places like fast food restaurants and toy stores. As you ride, point out large signs that are not as familiar. Name the pictures and read the words. For example, say “Look at that sign! It says there’s a sale on fruit at the grocery store. Can you see the word apple?” Then talk about the words and spell them together. “A-P-P-L-E spells apple!”

License to Ride.  License plates and signs are great things to use for learning letters and numbers. Go on a letter hunt and invite your child to spell a word that he knows, like his name. Start by looking for the first letter. “The first letter in your name is a ‘J’. Let’s look for a license plate or a sign with a ‘J’ on it.”  Then find the next letter. “Can you find an ‘O’?” Continue until you find all the letters in the word.

When Does the Bus Come?  You can get bus schedules for many different busses at the bus station. Show your child the bus schedule for the bus that you take. Explain that a schedule shows what time the bus comes or arrives at the stop. It also shows what time the bus leaves, or departs. “A bus schedule helps us know what time we need to walk to the bus stop so we can catch the bus!”

Ride and Read.  Keep some familiar children’s picture books in the car for your child to look at. Your child can look at the pictures and tell you the story in his own way. You can ask questions that invite your child to explain the story to you. For example, ask “Why was the little boy mad at his brother?” Ask questions that invite your child to compare stories. “Do you like this book or the other book better? Why?”

Radio Ride.  Listening to music is a great way to spend time together in the car. Find a radio station with music that you and your child both like. If you can’t find one, take turns choosing. Listen to the music, and sing along if there are words. If not, talk about how the music sounds and how it makes you feel. “This music sounds like elephants trumpeting.  It wakes me up!” Try different types of music- country, rock and roll, jazz, and classical.


Ride and Chat.  Riding time can be a wonderful relaxing time to chat with your child and share thoughts and feelings with each other. Ask your child questions that invite him to share his ideas and feelings, like “Why do you like the color green so much?” or “How do you feel about your new teacher?” Listen to his ideas and share your ideas and feelings too. “I’m tired today. Work was difficult. I had a lot of work to do.”

License to Ride. Children like to look at license plates and find ones from other states. Play a game with your child and look for the most interesting license plates. Talk about what you like on each one- the color? the design? the letters and numbers?  “What state are those people from?” If possible, show a map to your child. Explain that a map is a picture or diagram of what a place looks like. People use maps to see where a place is, or to figure out how to get there. On a long ride, bring paper and crayons. Your child can create his own license plate. “What letters and numbers will you write on your license plate?”

Ride and Read.  Bring a couple of books for your child to read while you ride. Encourage your child to read out loud to you as you drive. As he reads, ask him questions about the plot, or the story, and the characters. “Is that the same guy who helped his friend at the beginning?” Ask for his opinion about the story. “What did you think about the character of the uncle?” Ask him to compare this book to other books. “Have you read any other books by the same author?” Talk about the type of book it is. “Is this a mystery?”

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