I’ve spent the last few days giving you great ideas for getting you and your kids out in your yard or the local park. But maybe you’re a family who likes to take drives and listens to audiobooks.
Hey, I can dig it.
But you need the perfect book.
Because of Winn-Dixie is rooted in a small-town neighborhood, and provides you with plenty of educational opportunities to get out and explore your own neighborhood and learn a bit more about where you live.
Because of Winn-Dixie Neighborhood Exploration
If you don’t know the story, Because of Winn-Dixie is the tale of Opal, a 10-year-old girl who moves to small-town Florida with her father, the preacher. Opal is struggling with her feelings about the mother who abandoned her and the father who is often too preoccupied for her. She meets a stray dog at the local Winn-Dixie and adopts him, which leads her to other friends.
Though simple, this story is rife with depth, and it remains one of my all-time favorite coming-of-age stories. Lucky for me, my boys love it as much as I do.
Because getting to know her new town is such an important part of Opal’s story, it provides plenty of ideas for getting to know your own town.Explore your neighborhood with Because of Winn-DixieClick To Tweet
Visit a convenience store
The preacher’s church isn’t a regular-looking church. The building used to be a Pick-It-Quick convenience store. Chances are, your kids can’t even picture the building. Think along the lines of a 7-Eleven or (if you’re in my part of the country) a Sav-a-Step. The kind of store that sells, chips, candy, and sodas but often doesn’t even have gas pumps. Those long, rectangular buildings that almost disappear into the landscape if you’re not looking for them.
Find a Winn-Dixie
We used to have them around here, but it seems they are now concentrated in southern states. Find out if there’s one near you and visit it.
If you can’t find a Winn-Dixie, visit a comparable grocery store.
Buy some apples or another portable snack before you continue your journey (because you just have to go to the produce section. Maybe you’ll find a dog).
Visit a rural library
Opal spends much of her summer in a library that is “just a little old house full of books.” If you live in the city, take a trip to the countryside and find a small-town library to check out. They aren’t hard to find; oddly enough, there are two in my county (which doesn’t even boast a McDonald’s).
A rural library experience is very different from a big-city library experience. The librarians tend to be more friendly and the ‘quiet’ rule isn’t quite as harsh. In my experience, rural libraries have a much homier atmosphere. If your kids haven’t had the pleasure, do not pass this one up.
Go to the zoo and visit the bears
Miss Franny once threw a copy of War and Peace at a bear who came into her library. Seeing the bear exhibit at the zoo will give your kids an idea of how frightening it must have been for Miss Franny to look up and see that bear standing right in front of her.
Visit a local pet store
Opal gets a job at Gertrude’s Pets, which turns out to be one of the most laid-back pet stores I’ve ever heard of.
Find a pet store that has a wide variety of animals and ask the clerk about getting personal time with some of them. Your kids will LOVE that.
Visit a public garden
Gloria Dump’s garden becomes a safe place for Opal while she struggles with her problems. So find a garden near you and let your kids see how peaceful and beautiful gardens can be.
You could even plant a tree in your own yard when you get home like Opal does in Gloria Dump’s garden.
Visit a nursing home
Stevie Dewberry tells Opal, “My mama says you shouldn’t be spending all your time cooped up in that pet shop and at the library, sitting around talking with old ladies.”
But sometimes sitting around and talking with elderly people is just so darn fun and informative. Plus, your kids are sure to put smiles on the occupants’ faces.
It’s a win for everybody.
Visit a local artist or artisan festival
Gloria Dump’s ghost tree reminds me of those bottle trees you often see in people’s yards or gardens. And that makes me think art.
My county is full of talented artists, most of whom would be pleased to show off their skills to kids. If you can’t find an artist to spend some time with your kids, find a summer festival that features artisans and crafters. I bet you’ll see bottle trees there.
Tour a candy factory or candy store
Miss Franny’s great-grandfather built the family fortune with a candy factory after he came home from fighting in the Civil War. How cool would it be to tour a candy factory and see how it all works?
If there isn’t a convenient candy factory near you, find a candy store. A real one that specializes in candy and has rows and rows of delicious goodies on offer.
You’d probably better take plenty of money.
Visit a Civil War site or museum
Because it’s a good history lesson to throw in. That is all.
Then throw a neighborhood party
Because if anything in the world will make you appreciate your friends and neighbors, this book will. So invite them all over for an evening pitch-in.
Just make sure one of them plays guitar.
Grab your free printable
Download your Because of Winn-Dixie Neighborhood Exploration Pack and plan your trip!
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