Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Travel writing for children. Interview with Shira Halperin, owner of the FlyingKids edition house

Writing for children is not an easy task, and when it comes to travel, the challenges are even bigger. Inspired by her own family travels, Shira Halperin, the owner of the FlyingKids edition house embarked on an amazing and difficult journey: convincing children that travel is more fun than wasting the time in the front of the computer. Shortly after publishing the latest guide, a very smart guide to Germany, Shira answered a couple of questions about her business and publishing project.

Fresh from the press
- How did the story of your travel books for kids start?

I always loved traveling. I travelled a lot, both for pleasure (vacations) and business. When my kids were born, I didn’t want to stop, but I found out it gets more and more difficult. After a day or two, or sometimes even after a few hours they just wanted to play on their electronic devices. I felt that there is a huge gap between the image I had in my mind about family trips and what happened in the day to day life. Kids get bored really fast, so I used to ask myself, how come my kids are traveling in such beautiful places and they don’t really seem excited about it? So I decided to develop unique content, to make them interested and entertained in the new places. I developed general materials like back seat activities and later I started to collect and create ideas for dealing with kids during long travel to new country or city. I didn't want them to just “play” and get entertained, I wanted them to “play” and have fun while gaining knowledge and information about cultures, places, local people etc. Back then I was working for a big international corporation and I had many friends and colleagues from all over the world. I shared the booklets I created with them and guess what I got tremendous feedback. My colleagues shared my booklets with other parents and they started to contribute with ideas and content. It took  about 7 years, but the result was the birth of the Kids' Travel Guide book series and FlyingKids publishing house. We released our first 11 guides on June 2014. We now have 27 travel guides for books and many more to come!

'(...) when the learning process is fun and challenged, the kids will love to cooperate'

- How can little kids be interested not only in enjoying the travel, but also reading?

Well… when you travel with kids and you want your kids to learn new things and get enriched from the travel and not just staring at the view or get bored, it all becomes a real challenge. Our Kids’ Travel guides are our answer to parents (and kids) that want the get the most out of the family trip and those who believe that travel is a great opportunity for for kids to learn  and fulfil their curiosity. We believe that when the learning process is fun and challenged, the kids will love to cooperate. Learning is fun and this is why in our travel guides you will find funny quizzes, interesting facts, "juicy information," quizzes, special tasks, a kid’s diary and coloring pages. It’s all part of the family experience and our guides become a family book not just for the kids’ but for the whole family. It’s a new way to experience the family travel.

- What is the most challenging part of writing for children?

Writing the travel guides has two main challenges. The first challenge is about writing to kids from all over the world, what’s the common ground to kids from the USA and UK? We always try to find what makes children from all over the world interested. The second challenge is about dealing with sensitive issues. For example, kids’ go to Thailand and meet for the first time Ladyboys. We can’t ignore it. But what’s the best way to explain kids about Ladyboys? What’s the best way to explain kids about Spain traditional bull fights which is part of the Spanish life, but also a very violent act. What’s the best way to explain wars in the history of some the countries? With each book we publish we need to decide what content to put in and what is the best way to explain sensitive subjects to kids age 6 - 12 years old. And I think we are doing a great job doing that. We are especially proud of our latest Kids’ Travel Guide - Germany. Our write, Salome Gonstad done a great job explaining Germany's complicated history to children.

'Fantastic feedback from the kids parents'

- How was the feedback from the little readers so far?

We get fantastic feedback from the kids parents. We learned a lot from parents the write for us. We also got feedback from adults that use it as a fun present to adults that enjoy it! We also got lots of feedback from home-school parents that use our guide as a learning boo without even planning to visit the destination. That was a big surprise to us and it looks like more and more home-school parents use it.
From time to time parents send pictures of their kids with the book – and from the happy kids in the picture we get the impression that kids love our books!

- What is, in your opinion, the role of travel in the intellectual development of children nowadays?

That is a great question! Nowadays, kids are very exposed to the outside world. Learning doesn't only happening while they sit in the classroom. The world is full of information for little people, it’s everywhere. But learning from “screens” is not enough. I believe that traveling is the only way to provide a real experience that help the kids to memorize and internalize new knowledge, new experience and develop curiosity. When I travel with my own kids I know they get enriched with knowledge that no teacher in the class can teach them and if a teacher can, it will be only theoretically and it won’t last. It’s the difference between learning about computer capabilities vs. playing and using computers. It's the difference between learning about the rain vs. getting outside, feel the rain and get wet. Learning about a new place and get experience from traveling to new places is mind opening and one of the most enriching experience we can offer to our kids, in my opinion.

- What will be your next books about? What are your writing plans for the next months?

We always work on 3-4 books at the same time, so at the moment we are in different stage of working. We just launched Kids’ Travel Guide – Germany. In April we will launch the Kids’ Travel Guide – Washington, DC which will be the 6th guide in the USA series. Right after that we will release guides for Japan, China, Tokyo , Barcelona, Beijing and more… There are so many places to visit and write about…

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