The books that children read growing up can shape how they view and interact with the world. Books can influence children’s environmental worldview, their ways of life, and their ways of interacting with friends and family. Encouraging children to read books focused on active school travel can inspire a lifelong love of walking, rolling and wheeling – which benefits everyone!
The same goes for the media consumed by practitioners in transportation. As part of our deeply engrained car culture, mass media tends to glamorize the personal vehicle. This makes it important for practitioners to seek out books, videos, and resources that challenge the belief systems that perpetuate this car culture and prioritize active transport.
To help, we have created two book lists – one for children and another for transportation practitioners that focus on walking and cycling. These lists have been compiled with help from partner organizations, our online audience, and members of the Ontario Active School Travel Network.
We hope that these books will inspire and encourage active travel for the next generation!
Books for Kids
The book list for kids includes 33 books that have a theme of active transportation or have characters who use active transportation as their main mode of travel. This includes ducks riding bikes, people doing funny things on trails, and many more kid-friendly themes.
These books are fun to read at home or in a classroom. Here are some examples of the books included in the list:
1. Go Bikes Go
This book features beautiful illustrations of different types of bikes and the people who enjoy them. It is inspired by the growing bike culture in the Pacific Northwest.
2. Let’s go for a Walk
This unique book serves as a walking guide and encourages the reader to stop and look around during their next walk. Ranger Hamza has created several prompts of things to look out for: something blue, something short, something rough, and more!
3. Run Wild
This book follows the story of a girl who sees a boy absorbed by his digital device and encourages him to leave the device and go on an outdoor adventure. Together, they explore the sights and sounds of the natural world around them.
4. The Car that Wanted to be a Bike
This book follows Johnny, a friendly car that realizes how nice it would be to become a bicycle. Does Johnny become a bike? Can he find a new purpose in life? This book teaches children about the many benefits of bicycling.
5. City Streets are for People
This illustration-filled book explores various modes of sustainable transportation, including electric vehicles, bicycles, and walking, while also inviting us to imagine a city where the streets are designed for all people.
6. Good to be Green: Let’s Walk to School
This book follows a young boy who chooses to walk to school one day. As he walks to school, he realizes the benefits of walking for his health and the planet. This is one of six books in the ‘Good to be Green’ series that encourages environmental awareness for youth.
7. It’s a Mitig!
This book brings the reader through a forest while introducing many Ojibwe words about nature. It is written and illustrated by an Ojibwe author and inspires Indigenous and non-Indigenous children to learn about Indigenous cultures.
8. Ruby’s School Walk
Join Ruby on her journey to her first day of school. As she walks to school with her mom, she imagines beasts hiding at every corner. Read on to see how her mom helps her find courage on her first day of school!
9. The Way to School
This book of beautiful photographs follows the many amazing, and sometimes dangerous ways that children around the world travel to and from school.
10. 50 Below Zero
This popular and hilarious book is a timeless classic. It follows Jason and his father, who is always sleepwalking everywhere and anywhere. Jason gets woken up to his dad in the strangest places, in the freezing cold woods, and even on top of the refrigerator!
Access the full list of children’s books.
Books for Practitioners
The book list for practitioners includes 29 books related to active school travel. Topics include how to make active transportation more inclusive, how to create a good bike lane, urban design principles, and the philosophy of walking and cycling.
These books can be casual reads on a holiday or during a lunch break. Here are some examples of the books included in the list:
1. Active Transportation in Canada
Transport Canada (Environmental Initiatives Group)
This resource and planning guide can be used by transportation planners to improve the viability of active transportation in their city or region. Included in the guide is a detailed history of active transportation in Canada as well as a planning framework and other resources.
2. Children’s Active Transportation
This book analyzes current travel behaviours of children and youth and the key factors that influence these behaviours. Children’s habits are unique because their decisions are often influenced by parental restrictions, school location, and their inability to drive a vehicle. This is a great resource to encourage children to develop active transportation habits from a young age.
3. Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality
Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett
In this book, Melissa and Chris Bruntlett share their observations of the Netherlands, the world’s top cycling nation where there are more bikes than people. They share their insight into how the Netherlands became so successful in its bike culture, and how North American cities can implement lessons learned from the Netherlands.
4. Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design
This book explores how city planning shapes our thoughts and behaviours. Charles Montgomery draws on stories around the world – an activist in Paris who turned their freeways into beaches, and an architect in New York who transformed the city into what we see today. This book explores how we can plan for happier cities while also tackling our generation’s most pressing challenges.
5. Right of Way
In this book, Angie Schmitt discusses the increase in pedestrian deaths in American cities, many of whom are often poor, immigrants, and people of colour. Schmitt discusses how these pedestrian deaths are easily avoidable and calls for action to improve infrastructure and policies on the road.
6. Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places
In this essential guide to making changes in your city, Jeff Speck provides 101 rules for practical arguments that people can use to advocate for greater walkability in their communities. This is the most comprehensive and effective tool available to bring city-planning practices into your city.
7. Street Fight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution
Janette Sadik-Khan was largely responsible for transforming New York City’s streets to make room for pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and green spaces. In her book she shares insights about the battles she fought to create these transformations in New York in hopes of providing practical advice for other cities to make their streets safer and more vibrant.
8. The Death and Life of Great American Cities
This book is fundamental to urban planning. Author Jane Jacobs – one of America’s biggest and most influential urban activists – discusses many topics including what makes streets safe, what creates a ‘neighbourhood’, and how some neighbourhoods stay impoverished while other regenerate themselves. This book is perfect for aspiring urban activists, planners, and more.
9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber, and Elon Musk
In this book, James Wilt explores what public transportation should look like in order to be sustainable and equitable. He considers a wide range of topics including climate change, inequality, urban density, safety, and unions, and explores these topics by interviewing more than forty experts.
10. Feminist City: A Field Guide
Leslie Kern discusses how our cities are sites of ongoing gendered struggles but more importantly sites of hope; hope for re-shaping social relations based on care and justice. She takes on many different topics including motherhood, friendship, activism, and lays out how to make our cities more equitable by using an intersectional feminist approach.
Access the full list of practitioner books.
We hope that our curated selection of books will help you find your next great read. Visit our websites, Ontario Active School Travel and School Travel for more helpful resources on how to encourage active transportation in your community. Happy reading!
Written with significant contributions from Nicole Roach and Charlotte Estey.