‘Books without words’: parents of China boy, 6, sell up, buy camper van to take son on nationwide learning tour

By Liya Su

A news story about a couple in China who sold their car and flat, then bought a camper van to take their six-year-old son on a nationwide study tour has trended on mainland social media.

The mother and father, from Henan province in central China, decided to delay their son’s admission to public primary school for a year and create a unique study tour for him instead.

The family has visited at least 10 provinces and the tour is ongoing, Henan TV City Channel reported.

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In China, the minimum age for public primary school entrance is six years old. The father Yang Qiang said his son, nicknamed Mangguo, failed to get enrolled in autumn 2023 because he was not six for another nine days.

The educational tour has taken the family to an array of places in China, including a desert area of the country, where the boy and his mother enjoyed an alfresco meal. Photo: Bilibili

Instead of choosing a private school that would allow Mangguo to start, Yang and his wife decided to delay his admission to public primary school for a year.

The parents came up with the study tour idea and have relaxed and positive attitude towards schooling and learning.

“Sometimes being slow is going fast,” Yang said, adding: “If parents can be the best parents, their children will grow to be the best children.”

The parents believe that schooling is studying from books, while travelling is absorbing knowledge from the world.

“Travelling is reading books without words. When you see and know more, your vision will become bigger,” said Yang.

He said that their savings and the money from selling their car and flat would support the one-year tour.

Over the past few months, the family has visited more than 10 provinces and regions.

“I know what those sheep are doing. They are migrating,” Mangguo said to his father as they drove past a field.

Once they left the camper van, Mangguo walked with a sheep in the grassland.

In the viral video, filmed by the father, the boy and his mother are seen wandering around the desert and mimicking the walk of a duck.

The boy and his mother stroll around a historic site, where his parents tell him educational stories. Photo: Bilibili

When they travel to historical sites and museums, Yang patiently tells stories about culture and history to Mangguo.

The family does not know precisely when the tour will end, for now, they are having fun and learning at the same time.

Mainland social media has been captivated by the story.

“This child is growing up in a lovely family,” one person wrote.

“The family proves the old Chinese saying that travelling 10,000 miles is better than reading 10,000 books,” said another.

“I’m envious of this open-minded, brave, and loving family,” said a third.

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