"The Railway Children" was written by Edith Nesbit in 1906. In the book, Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are three wealthy English children. When their father disappears, they move to a tiny flat near a country train station. While the ending is a bit predictable, the book is a gem of children's literature and still used in classrooms across the country.
The first place to look for activities for any book is with the publisher. Penguin owns both the US and UK rights for "The Railway Children" and their website offers suggestions, print-ables and extensive chapter-by-chapter notes that correlate with the illustrations in the book.
The English language is a living language. The book was written more than 100 years ago and vocabulary has changed. As they read the book, help children highlight words they are unfamiliar with. Look them up together online or in a dictionary. Write a sentence that uses the word properly. Not only does this activity build the child's vocabulary, but it helps to bring the book to life.
The world has changed in a hundred years. While reading the book, stop and highlight older technologies. Start with the simplest, everyday things like making tea or preparing a meal. How is illness treated? How did the characters wash clothes, travel and communicate? If possible, try some of these activities and compare them to their modern equivalent. Mail a letter across town, or, for even more fun, ask someone far away to mail a letter to the student. Compare that to e-mail. Allow the student to wash dishes in the sink after a meal rather than use a dishwasher. These kinds of experiences immerse the student in the world of "The Railway Children."
Visit a Train Station
If possible, visit an antique railway station or antique train. If there are none in the area, try visiting a model train exhibit. Ask an expert to explain the different parts of the train, station and rails. This three dimensional understanding will help bring the book to life.
The Railway Children: the Movie
After completing the book, watch the movie. There are two versions available, a big screen production that premiered in 1970 and a Masterpiece Theater production filmed in 2000. Both have a run time of just over 100 minutes. After watching the movie, ask the students how it differed from the books. What was left out? Did the characters look the way they were described in the book? Take a poll comparing the pleasure of watching the movie to the pleasure of reading the book.