Keeping kids reading when school is not in session can be a challenge for any parent. But when books are combined with play, music and interactive entertainment, kids can enjoy these activities in an untraditional format that takes reading outdoors. Such is the premise of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Curious World Tour, a summer-long bookmobile party that kicked off in New York City this past Sunday. Highlights include a Story Camp where kids can read inside a tented library, teeming with books starring HMH characters such as Gossie and Gertie, the Five Little Monkeys and of course, Curious George; a Community Garden in which kids can plant seeds and decorate their own flower pots; and a Jungle Jamboree, an open stage where kids can learn about sound, rhythm and music. “We partnered with the Association of Children’s Museums and the Ultimate Block Party to ensure that each of these activities has learning value and because they know how kids like to play,” Olson said.
The tour trailer – pulled by HMH’s classic Little Blue Truck – set up shop in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and attracted the attention of 2,000 visitors between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. “We wanted to create a way for kids to have fun in a playful learning experience,” Bianca Olson, senior v-p of corporate affairs, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “What better time than summer and in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of Curious George, a character who represents playful learning and curiosity?”
Making stops in eight additional cities (San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles) from now until August 11, the traveling children’s museum of sorts features a host of activities for younger kids. “We chose these locations to coincide with some pre-existing festivals, such as the Freedom Fest in San Antonio and the Sacramento State Fair,” explains Olson. Other pop-up stops will be disclosed over the course of the summer via social media.
Of special note is Color the World, a collaborative mural that lets budding artists express their creative abilities. In Austin and Sacramento, children’s book illustrator Rafael Lopez (Maybe Something Beautiful) will be on hand to coordinate permanent large-scale murals in these two locations. Other cities will also have mural walls as part of the tour’s hands-on activities, and can share their contributions via the hashtag #SparkAMind.
In addition to the playful learning component of the Curious World Tour, HMH will donate a total of 75,000 books to local nonprofits throughout its run. The company has been seeking out potential partners in each location and most recently awarded 7,500 books to the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club of New York City. “We visited one of the clubs in Brooklyn, and storytime with Curious George was a big hit,” Olson reported.
Even after the tour reaches its final destination in Los Angeles, kids can foster their love of learning via the Curious World App, part of the online content service that HMH launched at the end of last year. Described as a “Netflix for learning,” this all-inclusive curated play program includes a supply of e-books, games and videos available as a monthly subscription with new content added every week. “Part of the Curious World Tour is embodying the spirit behind the app and providing those experiences live,” Olson noted. “It’s one of the only content services that encourages offline and online learning.”