This summer I received a packet of books and interactive booklets from the US Government Publishing Office (GPO). Basically, the GPO has an online bookstore where you can purchase children's books (and adult books) that have been published by various government agencies. Who knew? They actually have a Government Book Talk Blog where you can learn about the books, with posts often keyed to holidays and other relevant events. You do have to buy the books from the government (via website, phone, at their retail store in Washington, etc.). But they have some cool stuff.
They sent me a couple of paperback picture books from the CDC that were designed for parents to help understand their children's developmental milestones. They are include lots of prompts for parents to interact with two and three year olds, and they have little "Milestone Moments" on each page to tell parents what to expect as their children's literacy develops. These types of books are not really my sort of thing, but the two that I received (Where Is Bear?: A Terrific Tale for 2-Year Olds and Amazing Me: It's Busy Being Three) were cute, and certainly put together with attention to detail. I could see value in, say, distributing them as part of a Reach Out and Read type program. You can read more about them here.
They also sent me several softcover activity booklets from the National Park Service, a Junior Ranger Activity Booklet for Haleakala, a Junior Paleontologist Activity Book for Ages 5-12, a Junior Ranger activity guide for California-Zephyr, and a Junior Ranger Night Explorer booklet for the Midwest Region. The website shows various others, for all sorts of activities and locations. These activity books would, I think, be extremely handy for keeping a child busy when visiting a National Park. They are chock full of word searches, board games (where you just use a pebble or something for playing pieces), fill in the blank quizzes, journal entries, and connect the dots. They have clearly been extensively researched and are full of details about the topic at hand. Here's one example:
"Native Hawaiians are incredible scientists. Scientists learn best by just watching, hearing, and feeling how things around them interact. They observe many things: rocks, plants, birds, air, sun, stars, and much more. Pre-European contact Hawaiians did not have a written language. They had to memorize everything that they learned." This is followed by questions like "Think of ways you can help yourself memorize things without writing them down."
Some of the content is more fact based, while some of it leans towards passing on positive messages about National Parks, nature, etc. The Haleakala one has required activities that you need to do. If you do them you can get a park ranger to sign your certificate. The Junior Paleontologist one was more general, without the associated certificate. I think my daughter will enjoy working with this one from home.
My general impression of the activity books was that they all had a LOT of content, and could keep kids busy in the car for quite some time. They are lightweight but are full color, and sturdy enough to survive a road trip. If I were headed to a National Park or other landmark I would consider checking online ahead of time for associated publications. At the very least, if saw said publications in the visitor's center on checking in, I would definitely pick one up. We'll keep the Haleakala one for our next trip!
And just to point out the wide variety of government agencies producing children's publications, the last booklet in my packet was Understanding Marine Debris: Games & Activities for Kids of All Ages, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This has a glossy cover and a black and white interior with sturdy pages. There's everything inside from coloring to dot to dot to Mad Libs. This one is, as you would expect from the title, fairly didactic in terms of the content ("How your packed lunch can make less trash", etc.), but it's been my observation that many kids love this sort of thing. They can use the knowledge against their parents and show how smart they are ("Mommy, the book says you should be using reusable grocery bags", or whatever). I also thought that they did a nice job of keeping the activities fun. Which is the point, of course.
Bottom line: the US Government Publishing Office has a wide range of publications designed to inform and educate kids (and parents). If you are looking for activity books for your kids on some particular topic (a trip you are taking, a point you want to make to them about the environment, etc.), their website would a good place to start. And if you are out in a Visitor's Center somewhere, take a look at the kids' publications. I think you'll be surprised by the level of effort that's gone into making them entertaining.
© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).