Read Aloud Books Help Teach Bicycle Safety to Children
I’ve been having a ton of fun teaching kids bicycle safety the last three years. In the local Safe Routes to School Program the Fort Collins Bike Co-op has had contracts for three years now to teach bike safety in several schools each year. I’ve had to invent fun ways to get our message across. One way I’ve discovered is to read aloud children’s bicycle books. Books like Franklin rides a Bike, The Bear’s Bicycle and many others have great messages for kids. As long as future riders get some help interpreting those messages they afford great learning moments.
I discovered early on that it is easy to talk to kids about rules of the road. One of the first things they learn in school is – you guessed it, the rules! When I asked kindergartners for some rules in their school they come up with: “be nice,” “keep your hands to yourself,” and “raise your hand when you have something to say in class.” But my favorites were the child who raised his hand to announce: “use only four squares when you go to the bathroom!” And another – “use only one squirt of soap when you wash your hands.”
My favorite success story in reading a book to kids was with Franklin Rides a Bike by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark (Scholastic Inc., 1997). Part of the popular Franklin the turtle series, Franklin is faced with a common dilemma of not being able to ride a bike without training wheels. Franklin’s friends ride but he can’t. He gets frustrated and learns about persistence, patience and practice as he finally takes his training wheels off and learns to balance.
In any kindergarten class there are still several kids using training wheels. One week after reading this story and talking about the need to practice, I saw a pipsqueak of a little girl wheel her bike into the school grounds one morning with her mother. Mom saw me and asked if we had done bike safety the week before. Yes, I said, we had. “That explains it,” she said. And she told how her daughter had announced on the weekend that she wanted her training wheels taken off. She spent all day Saturday practicing and now can ride without training wheels!
Another book that the kids enjoy a lot is The Bear’s Bicycle by Emilie Warren McLeod, illustrated by David McPhail (Little, Brown and Company, 1975). A little boy takes his teddy bear riding every afternoon. The bicycle rider is a very careful cyclist. He does a safety check on his bike before he rides. He is careful coming out of his driveway and he signals. He walks his bike across the street. The bear, though is not always so careful. The boy watches for car doors, the bear does not. The boy watches for hazards, like debris and dogs, bear does not. The boy keeps to the right and warns pedestrians of his approach. He goes downhill carefully and stops at stop signs. At the end of the afternoon he wipes his feet before entering the house. Bear is, of course, the little boy’s alter ego who chose not to learn all the safe cycling skills the little boy did.
The kids engage readily in this story. I read what the little boy does and then ask the kids to tell me what bear does. At the end, I ask them “what would you tell bear he needs to do to be a safer cyclist?” They all begin by saying, “Bear, you need to wear a helmet.” Or, “Bear, you need to stop and walk your bike across the street.” Or yet another, “bear you need to signal before turning.”
You’ll have fun with these and other bicycle read aloud books if you have aspiring cyclists, children and grandchildren around!