Here was our dilemma – how could we get our group of young boys interested in classic literature?
Perhaps we could select books with timeless themes that offered action and adventure, but would they be interested in and able to related to stories written so many years ago?
After spending the afternoon in one of our local “parks” we decided to link our literature lessons to our favorite field trip destination (which just happened to be Disney’s Magic Kingdom) and the results were pure magic!
Over the years Disney has used classic stories as the basis for many of their movies and theme park attractions. We thought about the famous titles they drew their inspiration from and we knew we had found a great place to start. From adventure stories like Swiss Family Robinson and Tom Sawyer to fantasy tales such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, we realized the Magic Kingdom was the perfect place to bring our classic literature lessons to life.
Could we create meaningful literature lessons with Disney references?
We worked with a few other families and started a Disney-inspired Book Club. We kept our process fairly simple:
- We selected one book per month and began by reading aloud and discussing these great works of literature with our children at home.
- Then we scheduled time for the families to meet together and we lead the children through interesting discussions about the stories.
- We hoped that by focusing on stories our children were already familiar with it would be easy to begin introducing literary terms and concepts along the way and engage with them in meaningful discussions about the stories’ characters, themes, setting, and so much more.
- One of their favorite activities quickly became an activity in comparison – they would read the book, watch the Disney film, and then fill in a Venn diagram noting the similarities and differences between the two versions (they had no idea the Disney versions were often much different than the original story!).
- During our meetings we would also include activities, crafts and snacks which made the time fun for everyone.
- Finally, we scheduled an afternoon to meet at the Magic Kingdom visit the rides and attractions that were inspired by the characters and stories we read about. We had visited these attractions many times over the years, but it was exciting to see the connections being made when the kids took the time to notice the details in light of their new understanding of the original stories. The really enjoyed looking in every room of the Swiss Family Treehouse and exploring Tom Sawyer’s Island for references to the stories.
Do the park attractions really have literary references?
Here are a few of our favorite books and the attractions we have visited to bring our learning to life:
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss – Swiss Family Treehouse
Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – Tom Sawyer Island and Liberty Square Riverboat
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan’s Flight
Alice in Wonderland by Charles Dodgson – Mad Tea Party
Uncle Remus Stories by Joel Chandler Harris – Splash Mountain
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – Jungle Cruise (we realize this isn’t exactly based on the Jungle Book, but it was close enough for us!)
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
And of course classic fairy tales like Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid and more!
The next time you are planning a trip to the Magic Kingdom set aside a little time to have your family read one of these classic stories before your visit. Your time spent enjoying these attractions will seem more like a scavenger hunt, giving your family opportunities to talk about how the characters and ideas in the stories were brought to life through the various park attractions.
What if you aren’t planning a visit to the parks?
After we developed our Disney-inspired literature studies we decided to package our materials and offer them to other families so they could bring a little Disney magic to their own lessons. Our World Study Guides are lapbook style unit studies are filled with discussion questions, writing prompts, hands-on activities and more. The World Study Guides are available through Currclick.