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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Read Aloud Bicycle Books for Kids

A great way to get kids thinking about safe cycling is to read children's books aloud to them.  I've done this in bike clubs after school and in PE classes.  The younger kids, especially, enjoy this.  One book per class can bring lots of safe cycling topics into your teaching.  

Robot on a bike!
There are scores of bicycle books available to teach younger children safe cycling messages.   Your school library will have many of them.  By the time you get to 4th and 5th graders, there are fewer books available.  But most older elementary school children have the opportunity to read aloud to younger children.  This gives you one of the first opportunities to have children mentoring children by talking about the safe cycling behavior described in the examples presented below. 

Below is a list of  14 bicycle story books for k – 3rd graders.  The safety messages in those books are pointed out under “Lesson” after each book description.  You can probably pick up any children’s bicycle book and apply safety lessons yourself once you have read through a few of these books.
Key messages include:  perform an ABC Quick Check on your bike; learning to ride takes practice, persistence, and patience; bicycling knows no age or gender barriers; control your speed; watch for hazards; wear a helmet; follow the rules and the law; bicycling is fun; bicycling allows you to explore; bikes can be fixed over and over;  you can learn how to fix a bike (visit your Bike Co-op to learn); etc.
Franklin rides a Bike by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark (Scholastic Inc., 1997)  Also available on DVD and in Spanish:  Franklin Monta en Bicicleta
                Part of the popular Franklin the turtle series, Franklin is faced with a common dilemma of not being able to ride a bike without training wheels.  Franklin’s friends ride but he can’t.   He gets frustrated and learns about persistence, patience and practice as he finally takes his training wheels off and learns to balance. 

Lessons:  That learning anything takes effort; magic doesn’t help; persistence, patience and practice is the best solution; Training wheels don’t help learn to balance;  learn a proper start; learn to balance without pedals; fall to the right – put your right foot down;  fall to the left - . . .

A Bicycle for Rosaura by Daniel Barbot, illustrated by Morella Fuenmayor(Harcourt Brace & Co. 1990)
                First published in Spanish (also available in Spanish)
Rosaura, a pet chicken, wants a bicycle for her birthday.  Her owner, Amelia finds a “special” mechanic to build her one - a fixed gear bicycle with no brakes. 
Lessons:  Bicycles for special needs;  Rosaura’s bike has no brakes, an opportunity to talk about the need to perform an ABC Quick Check on your bicycle (see ABC Quick Check) and what the law says about
brakes;  Rosaura wears no helmet so use your stop sign or helmet stickers to make that point with children.

Froggy Rides a Bike; by Jonathan London, Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz (Puffin Books, 2006) Also available in Spanish: Froggy Monta en Bicicleta.
Froggy dreams of riding and flying on his new bike the day he is scheduled to go to the bike shop to buy a new bike.  He and his father go through the exercise of picking out the right bike.  Froggy falls, totters, and falls again but finally, through practice learns to ride his bike.

Lessons:  Wear a helmet;  learning to balanc;  choosing the right kind of bike among all the sizes, colors and prices; bicycle equipment (bell, horn, talk about lights).

Dora Rides to Bike Park, by Kara McMahon, Illustrated by Dave Aikins (Simon and Schuster, 2007)  Based on the TV series, Dora the Explorer. 
                The little kids like this book a lot because it has a built in bell you can let them ring.  Dora rides to the bike park picking up all her friends along the way.  Sprinkled with Spanish words, everyone can feel like they are going with Dora.

Lessons:  Everone wears a helmet,  elbow and knee pads (make the point that if you don’t fall you may not need all the pads – just the helmet);  bicycling is fun

Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen, by Cari Best, illustrated by Christine Davenier (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). 
                The book takes Sally Jean through several childhood years on bikes: on her mother’s bike seat, a trike, a bike with training wheels, then learning to ride, and outgrowing her bike so that the seat and handlebars both needed raising.  As Sally Jean outgrew her bike she was faced with the problem of finding a properly fitting bicycle.  And she was faced with the problem of finding the money to buy one.  The solution came when a friendly junk collector helped find the parts for her to build her own bike.  Sally Jean starts her own Bike Co-op, teaching friends and neighbors how to fix their own bikes. 

Lessons:  Passion, thrill, freedom and independence of learning to ride, to fix bikes, and to help others do the same.  Girls can do this too (in what is often a male dominated world of bike mechanics!)  The Bike Co-op theme is strong here, of people helping people discover a passion.

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon (Scholastic, Inc. 2002).
                Flashbacks to Animal Farm, duck comes up with the great idea to try riding a bike.  Success brought envy from all the other barnyard animals until an entire group of kids comes through to visit.  When they park their bikes in the farmyard all the animals get to try a clandestine ride.

Lessons:  Anyone can ride a bike, it just takes practice.  And bike riding is fun!  Wear a helmet:  when the group of kids come through two of nine kids don’t wear a helmet.  Use your Stop sign stickers or helmet stickers to enforce the value of wearing a helmet.

The White Bicycle by Rob Lewis (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1988)
                Ravi’s mother cleaned out the garage and convinced him to discard his “rusty and dirty” bicycle.  As the story unfolds, Ravi’s bike goes to the dump where someone rescues it, uses it and abandons it.  The bike goes through a number of riders until it arrives at Joe’s junk shop.  Joe cleans it, fixes it an puts it in his shop for sale.  Ravi sees the bike and asks his mom to buy it for him.  She does and Ravi is very happy since it is “a lot like his old one!”

Lessons:  Used bikes are fun;  bikes can be fixed; everyone can use a bike for transportation; visit the Bike Co-op!

The Bike Lesson by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Beginner Books, Random House, 1964)
                Part of the immensely successful and controversial Berenstain series of books about bears.  Arrogant (and idiot) Papa bear demonstrates all the wrong moves on a bike while child bear can’t wait to try out his new bike.   The book is funny, as papa bear crashes time and again for doing all the wrong things.

Lessons:  Nobody wears a helmet; lesson one, how to get on a bike;  lesson two is how to stop; watch where you are going (and anticipate hazards); watch road signs and watch for debris on the road; don’t ride through a puddle if you can’t see the bottom of it (learning about hidden potholes); control your speed going down hill;  know how to brake; pick your route carefully; keep to the right; riding with no hands; riding two on a bike (illegal in Colorado).  This book has it all.

Tillie the Terrible Swede (How One Woman, A Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History) by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Sarah McMenemy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011)
                This is the story of a bicycling young woman who fought social norms to ride and race in the 1890s.  The story ends with Tillie taking on a new hobby, driving her automobile.  The book is based on the real historic character, Tillie Anderson, a young Swedish immigrant working in a tailor shop who first discovered the wonders of the bicycle and began to race in the 1890s. 

Lessons:  An inspiration to young women, this would be good for older children.  The idea is that anyone, not just men, can ride bicycles and race.  Tillie and her bridegroom marry and exit the church by bike.

Mrs. Peachtree’s Bicycle by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Ellen Beier (Simon & Schuster, 1996)
                Mrs. Peactree was tired of walking to do her shopping until one day she saw a trick bicycle rider at the circus.  It struck her that she could learn to ride a bicycle.  In buying a bike, though, the salesman tried to sell her a tricycle.  She insisted on a two-wheeler but then was frustrated when bicycling didn’t come automatically.  “Ladies can’t wheel,” said the milkman, “It takes too much concentration.”  That made Mrs. Peachtree even more determined to learn to ride a bike.  She learned and even got a ticket for going to fast.

Lesson:  Learning to ride a bicycle isn’t automatic.  It takes practice.  The idea that women or girls can’t learn to ride is nonsense.  There are rules about speed and where you can or can’t ride. 

Supergrandpa by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by Bert Dodson (Mulberry, William Morrow & Co. Paperback, 1991).
                This is based on a true story of a sixty-six year old grandfather in Sweden who was not allowed to enter a 1000 mile bike race in 1951 because of his age.  So he became a folk hero by entering clandestinely, riding through the night, and completing the ride at the same time as the other riders.

Lessons:  That even older people can ride bicycles and race them too.  The ability to ride a bicycle depends on your skill and training, not your age or gender. 

Curious George Rides a Bike by H.A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin, 1952 and 1993)
                One of the series of Curious George books this classic takes the monkey George on a fun adventure to the circus.  George’s owner/friend gives him a bike one day and advises him “be careful” . . . “and keep close to the house while I am gone.”  George’s first name, of course is “curious” so he couldn’t stay close to the house.  He helps a paper boy deliver papers but forgets what he is doing and goes exploring.  He eventually finds the circus where he is engaged as a trick monkey who rides a bike and, because he is a monkey and can climb trees, he rescues a lost bear cub who climbed the tree and can’t get down.  At the end of the story George finds his way home.

Lessons:  George doesn’t wear a helmet so be sure and ask children what’s missing and have a helmet sticker available to put on George.  Talk about trick riding and how it is fun but dangerous.  Talk about how much fun it is to go exploring by bicycle but how you have to pay attention to where you are going.
(And tell mommy and daddy where you are going when you go riding around the block.)

The Bear’s Bicycle by Emilie Warren McLeod, illustrated by David McPhail (Little, Brown and Company, 1975).
                A little boy takes his teddy bear riding every afternoon.  The bicycle rider is a very careful cyclist.  He does an ABC Quick Check on his bike before he rides.  He is careful coming out of his driveway and he signals.  He walks his bike across the street.   The bear, though is not always so careful.  The boy watches for car doors, the bear does not.  The boy watches for hazards, like debris and dogs, bear does not.  The boy keeps to the right and warns pedestrians of his approach.  He goes downhill carefully and stops at stop signs.   At the end of the afternoon he wipes his feet before entering the house.

Lessons:  Bear is the little boy’s alter ego, trying to learn all of the safe cycling behaviors described above, just as the little boy learned them as he began to ride. 

Anatole by Eve Titus, illustrations by Pul Galdone (first published by McGraw Hill, 1956; Alfred A. Knopf books for young readers, 2006)
                Anatole, the mouse, lived just outside Paris in a small mouse village.  Every evening he and the other mice fathers pedaled their bikes into Paris to find food for the family.  They used lights at night, of course.  One evening, after feeling guilty for stealing food all the time, Anatole snuck into the cheese factory where he voluntarily left notes on the quality of all the different cheeses.  Eventually, Anatole became the most trusted cheese taster in the world and the cheese factory depended on his advice.  Anatole was happy that he did not have to steal cheese, but he earned it by working as a taster.

Lessons:  The more Anatole rides every evening, the more he needs to wear a helmet.  Use lights at night.  It is fun and healthy to ride your bike to go to work (or school). 

Gracie Goat’s Big Bike Race by Erin Mirabella, illustrated by Lisa Horstman (Velo Press, 2007)
                Gracie Goat’s friends created a bicycle racing team to enter a bike race.  But Gracie didn’t know how to ride a bike.  She was so embarrassed to tell her friends she didn’t know how to ride that she signed up for the race anyway.  Gracie’s grandmother helped her to get over all her worries and to develop self-confidence to learn how to ride.  Gracie practiced and crashed and learned a lot.  But she entered the race and finished it!

Lessons:   You can overcome your fears if you put your mind to itEverything new takes time and practice.  The book ends with pictures of different kinds of bicycling competitions:  BMX, Mountain Biking, Track Cycling, and Road Cycling.  There is also a brief lesson on the importance of drinking water when you ride a bicycle.


Ellen said...

Great list! Thanks for sharing!

Michele said...

Thank you, Rick. This will absolutely make my reading list better. Nice of you to share. Tell Melissa the Fort Collins Librarian I said hello when you see her!