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Introducing: The Literature Tour

Posted on June 24, 2020
child reading book

Great stories can be told again and again without losing their magic. And fortunately for children, teens and adults alike, a wealth of great literature exists.

Just imagine, that in addition to hearing or reading favorite stories, how extraordinary it would be, to retrace favorite characters’ footsteps, in the towns in which the stories take place.

If you are fortunate to live in a town that's been incorporated into a popular book, you can give these stories — and your neighborhood — a whole new life with a Literature Tour.

These special tours allow families to bond over beloved bedtime tails and explore the worlds they’ve only read about.

Important Tips Before Beginning

  1. Always credit the book author. When basing your tour around a published work of literature, be sure to give the author — and the book — proper credit. Respect the art by not passing any ideas from the book off as your own. You’ll want to reference the book, and state that your tour is based on the story (but not officially associated with it).
  2. Whenever possible, provide links to the author’s website, or where to purchase the book, to help support the author.  Bonus: offer links to purchase the books from local booksellers!
  3. Don’t worry too much about whether or not Tour Takers have read a book. For families with children, you can address this in the initial description of the tour by telling them they can use the tour as a way to spark interest in a book or a concept.
    By introducing new audiences to these stories, you can ignite a curiosity that may  lead to a new bookworm in the making.
  4. Be sure to choose the appropriate age range for your Literature Tours. Picture books may draw the attention of preschool or elementary kids, while young adult novels will be better suited for teen audiences. Incorrectly categorizing your tour’s appropriate age range may lead to some very bored toddlers or angsty teens.

The Brilliance of Children's Books

Children’s books often offer a beautiful introduction to the world, and the notable people, around us. Planting Stories, The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is one such book.

Planting Stories, the Life of LIbrarian and Storeteller Pura  Belpré
Planting Stories, the Life of LIbrarian and Storeteller Pura Belpré, by Anika Aldamuy Denise

In beautiful illustrations, it tells of the life of Puerto Rican-born Belpré.  Later living in New York City, and working at the New York Public Library, she found that there were no actual Spanish books available there. So-she wrote them herself! A tour inspired by this book, and Belpré’s life, could either take a person through special stops in New York City, where she touched the lives of many people, or through Puerto Rico, where many of her stories take place.

Parents will love the idea of keeping younger children entertained with a tour that includes references to a favored picture book. With a classic such as Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, the tour could begin at the Boston Public Garden.

Make Way for Ducklings
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Tour Creators can use the different landmarks found in the book to share information about Boston while meeting children, right at their level. They’ll see Boston – from a duck’s point of view!

Help families see New York City through the eyes of Peter and his friends, with a tour inspired by HI, CAT! Perhaps you guide Tour Takers to a special ice cream shop (with curbside offerings!), past a storefront offering reflections of passerby, through neighborhoods similar to those depicted in the book, and ending, perhaps, at a park for parent and child to read the book together.

HI, CAT!
HI, CAT! By Ezra Jack Keats

Still other books clearly focus on specific locations. In Larry Gets Lost in Chicago, by Michael Mullin and John Skewes, a dog discovers Chicago’s landmarks while searching for his lost owners!  What a fun way to explore Chicago, with a Literature Tour inspired by Larry! Larry, by the way, also gets lost in Seattle, San Francisco and a host of other locations, in other books in this series.

For the slightly older child

To reach an older age group, you might base a tour off of books such as Stuart Little (see below!) or Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Both books follow unique characters around different areas of New York. 

Use Study Guides

Using Stuart Little by E.B. White as an example, we’ve located a great Study Guide that explains the major points in a short amount of time.

Stuart Little
Stuart Little by E.B. White

These Study Guides provide you with thoughtful questions and important themes as well as other tools that you can use to create a richer and more complete tour experience. The included vocabulary, fun facts about mice, and a section dedicated to creating a paper boat (related to Stuart’s adventure in Central Park) are delightful tidbits to sprinkle into your tour. Do remember to give credit to any work you use!

For the Adult

Your Tour Takers will be riveted by a tour centered around authors who’ve changed our world.

Classics such as Little Women provide a chance to introduce Tour Takers to Massachusetts, while also highlighting the author, in this case women’s right activist Louisa May Alcott. 

Little Women
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea can provide important context to people visiting Key West, FL. Perhaps your tour can include a stop at The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, FL. While wandering through the house, ask them to keep an eye out for the legendary six-toed cats that find sanctuary there.

Yet another author, Anne Rice, can add so much to a tour of New Orleans. Her popular novel, An Interview With A Vampire, will allow you to explore the author’s works and share the rich world of New Orleans to Tour Takers. Her official site AnneRice.com is a great place to start when looking for resources. 

In Closing

A great book has a way of creating a new world for its readers to explore. A great Literature Tour has a way of bringing that world to life. 

Know of a wonderful story based in your area? Weave it into your Built Story tour and share it with locals just waiting to experience their neighborhoods from a whole new perspective.

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