Literature Lessons from Disney’s Magic Kingdom
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.
Find out how you can start your own middle school book club!
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.
This would be a great way to get kids into reading and understanding each part of the park
I love this idea! I love all that is Disney and it is a great way to see correlations between literature and experience.
I love being able to integrate learning into play and have recently discovered how much fun lap books can be for all of us.
Our family members are big fans of Peter Pan!
Such a great giveaway!
This is exactly what I have been looking for! We are heading to Disney September 21… perfect timing too!
As a preteen this book was a delight to read. I hope to give my children the same opportunity, only with the added bonus of a companion study to go with it.
My daughter would love these. Perfect for our little homeschool.
Our favorite classic literature would be Swiss Family Robinson – fun for the whole family.
This is a great idea. We’ve used some of the Kingdom Keepers Books to give us a different view of DisneyWorld, but I never thought about using the classics.
What a great idea! I’m hoping to take my kids in October for my son’s birthday so I’ll definitely have to read some of the classics you mentioned with them before we go. My daughter’s favorite is Heidi, and my son is too young for a favorite yet!
What a great way to connect learning with your vacation. We will be going to Disney in November thank you.
Who knew you could do classic literature combined with Disney? Love the idea, of course living close to the park would be helpful. Swiss Family Robinson is a wonderful story. I always wanted to live in a tree.
Having a little baby makes me appreciate good books so much more. Seems like all kids wanna do now is play video games, so I always enjoy hearing from others that wanna make that their kids are learning the value of reading and getting out and doing things! Thanks for sharing!
Wow, I hadn’t really thought about how there was a connection between classic literature and Disney World! You must be a fantastic teacher & mom! My hat is off to you and I hope all those kids appreciate you 🙂
xo ~kim & chloe
What are great way to turn the educational part into hands on and an entertaining way to learn.
A very interesting and clever way to introduce classic literature.
Jae Mac @ I’m Just Sayin’…(Damn!)
What a wonderful way to introduce classic literature to your kids – and I actually never realized all of this until I read your post. Now about Shakespeare when they get to high school…
Such a great idea. We spend a few months every year at Disney World and try to incorporate learning activities. My kids especially loved studying the countries featured in Epcot.
This is an amazing idea! I wish we lived close to a Disney park- my kids would love this.
Do you guys homeschool? I am homeschooling my 3rd and 1st grader!
What a fun idea! I wish I would have thought of this before we went to Disney World last year. I have 2 boys and though we read a lot, it is not “Classic” Literature. I will have to try this out to get ready for the next time we made it to the Magic Kingdom. Thanks for a great idea! Krista @ A Handful of Everything
Our family’s favorite classic book to read is The Jungle Book. I love these literature guides. So fun!
Chronicles of Narnia.
What a fun unit–to connect literature to Disney World. We have always loved Swiss Family Robinson as well.
What an awesome idea! When we were homeschooling, we loved doing literature lessons with lapbooks and then having a field trip to coincide with it … to bring it to life.
We just returned from a week at Disney World for a family vacation, and even though the kids are all older now, they still remember the stories from the books and the movies.
Hugs & Blessings …
Simply Fresh Vintage
What a great idea! In all our years of homeschooling (12+) and working on unique ways to get the kids reading the best books, I never thought of how to tie them into a Disney trip. Very cool! (We are HUGE Disney fans here, too.)
This is a really cute idea and I really think not only does it help develop a child’s creativity but also their critical thinking skills. I love the fact that you have discussions about the books because this help builds self-esteem. I would love to do this one day when I have kids.
Our favorite book so far has Jungle Book.
Love this idea! A lot of thought was put into it, and I will pin it for use with my kids as they get older.
My son has always loved Swiss Family Robinson and Tom Sawyer
Chronicles of Narnia
What a fabulous idea!
This is such a creative idea. Now that I am older, I regret so much that I didn’t appreciate literature more fully as a child and have spent time going back and reading books I was supposed to read in school. This is such a great way to make it come alive for children and they will really appreciate those stories as they grow!
I never was a big disney fan as a kid. I kind of like it now but only some of the movies. Very cool that you can find lessons at the parks, you just have to be open it finding the literature.
I am a big fan of Disney and I believe learning through play is the best way for kids to soak up learning. I will definitely try this out.
I used anything and everything to try to bring interest to the kids’ education. We went with the Classical Education because I like the concept of using original works rather than just text books.
What a great idea to make those connections. I enjoyed many of the classic tales you mentioned when I was a kid but never thought about how Disney had applied them in their theme parks. My next trip to the Magic Kingdom will be with different eyes! And quite possibly with a re-read of some of my favorites as well.
Very creative weaving Disney in with literature lessons. Learning needs to be fun or kids loose interest fast. You seem to have figured out a way to encourage your kids to learn and have fun doing so!
What a wonderful way to include history/learning in such a FUN environment. Discussing the books and watching the movie and comparing the two. Great ideas and how much fun! Thanks for the ideas.
AWESOME!!! Literature is everywhere. What a great way to foster a love of reading in such a fun place!!
What a great idea — tying book reading about Disney into a Disney trip. My five-year-old granddaughter is scheduled to visit us in Florida for Christmas. Having her dad read books prior to the trip would add to her adventure. She’s visited Disney several times, but she was so young (around 9 months and then again when she was three). . This grandma thanks you for sharing.
What a great idea for incorporating a learning lesson into a fun activity that your children can relate to. I will have to remember this for when my kids get older. Thanks for sharing!
We are hoping to visit Disney next spring and I love the idea of doing this. Will have to get started on it right away!
This is such a great way to incorporate fun in learning. I want to do this when my son is o,d enough to read. Thanks for the inspiration!!!
LOVE this idea! We’re heading to Disney in a few weeks, and already have a whole EPCOT-themed thing going on this time (homeschooling-wise) but next time we are SO doing this! Ack! I’m kind of kicking myself for never thinking of MK like this before. Brilliant. Thanks so much for the inspiration. My daughter is currently reading Peter Pan, and she finished Alice a while ago, and she keeps telling me, “did you know in the book there’s tons of stuff that’s not in the movies, like this, and this, and this, and this . . .” Ha! Found your site from a link on Hip Homeschool Moms. Thanks again for sharing.
What a neat idea! I love comparing the actual rides to the pieces of literature that they correlate to. 🙂
I absolutely LOVED this post! I have been doing Disney themed weeks for Mommy School to teach my kids… You can check those posts out here: http://lifeisfantasmic.blogspot.com/p/kidsfamily.html
My kids are 3 & 18 months but I’ll be trying this literary reference idea once they get a little older!
Amazing!! Who knew the magic kingdom could be so educational!!
This is such a fun idea. What a great way to still teach your children while having so much fun.
I love how you use attractions around you to enhance learning! I also loved the use if Venn diagrams to compare the book to the movie! Genius!
Great idea for making a curriculum out of our own experiences. I’ve been wanting to do that with a few ideas of mine. Thank you for giving me some inspiration on getting started!
I think any idea to get our youth reading is great! Any child would love the tie in with a park too.
What a wonderful idea. It is a neat lesson in the difference between abridged works versus unabridged works as well.
What a great idea. Kids are so familiar with Disney stories, but many do not know anything about the stories are based on. It is great that you figured out how people who live nowhere near a Disney park can use the same approach.
What a great idea! I’m going to pin this so I can remember it when my kids are older!
What a great idea! I wish I could get my 14 year old into reading. Her dad and myself love to read and always have something to read. She on the other hand thinks she is allergic to books!
Thank you for this wonderful tip Susan, we’ve been discussing ideas for fun family activities that also include learning/educating our kids and this is a perfect way to bring the childhood stories that we all love to life.
You should try the Little Passports family activity, it’s also a great way to teach kids about other countries, languages and culture etc without the expense of travelling, see it here: http://www.lush-fab-glam.com/2013/09/stylish-mommy-hood-tips-fun-activities.html
What a great idea to get kids interested in reading! I love this concept of getting them to really experience the events for themselves and incorporating the stories into the trip. We hope to take our boys to Disney when they get a little older (my youngest is 22 months) I always enjoyed it as a child.
As the mom of a boy, I really liked this post. What a great, creative and engaging way to get your sons to engage with classic stories.
Hi! I’m here from the SITS Tribe building challenge and was so excited when I read your “About” page for a couple of reasons. 1) I am in central Florida right now visiting my parents (in The Villages) and 2) I love Disney! I love how you two bonded over loving Disney. I’m looking forward to looking through your page and learning so much!
Hi Susan. I’m so glad you stopped by! I’m the one who joined the tribe and I’m looking forward to getting to know you. Where are you from? Do you come down to visit regularly? As you’ve seen, we love to use Disney as a tool for learning. It’s a great way to learn while being out in the community. It’s nice to meet another Disney fan!
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