Making books with your children is a wonderful way to involve them in literacy and creativity. It helps them to see the link between reading and writing, and produce a book they have an emotional investment in. Our classroom-created books were usually falling apart by the end of the year - no, not a testament to my lack of book-binding skill, but to their popularity! My students loved to read books they had helped make, and would insist on sharing them with visitors.
Ideas for book-making projects you could do with your youngsters
With very young kids, help them to recognize and name objects you have in pictures, either cut out, drawn or photographed. For example, you have a page with "dog", one with "bike", another with "swing". Consider one to a page with a one word caption. Or the left-hand page could have one word and the right hand page might use that word in a sentence eg "We love to swing at the park near Grandma's." This helps children develop a word/picture association.
You could start with objects (nouns) and maybe move on to colours, action words (verbs), animals and their sounds, people in our family etc. Kids could cut out pictures from old magazines, or you can go for a picture walk and use digital photos. You might even use one of the great programs or web sites that allow you to create books and pay for a printed copy, like Mixbook.
Slightly older kids could have one or two sentence captions to explain what's going on in a picture. Themes could be any occasions where lots of snaps have been taken eg a birthday party or family holiday. Don't worry too much about sequence, unless your child is burning to tell a story that links each photo. And do consider encouraging your child to take photos himself. It's amazing how quickly kids learn, so consider a cheap point and shoot to introduce an extra element of fun and learning. Or encourage your child to create his own art work for the book. The possibilities are unlimited.
Still older children might like to plan their story and artwork/photographs. One suggested plan for a digital book might be to develop a storyboard or rough plot and characters so you can work out the pictures needed. Or just go for a photo walk and see what comes up.
In January this year, I decided to create a story about some toys. I took them for a photo walk in our backyard and posed them for some snaps. I brought the camera in to my computer, downloaded them and chose the pictures I thought I could use for a simple story. I put those pictures into the sequence that matched my story's main ideas. You can see the result in my article Using Toys as a Springboard for Writing which has still more details and alternatives to help kids make books.
If your child enjoys this kind of book-making, they might like to go one step further and stitch their pictures and captions into a movie/slideshow on a site like Stupeflix or PhotoPeach.
Independent readers and writers might only need guidance with software or a web site if you go the digital route. They will likely be bursting with ideas for stories and illustrations. Some sites like Mixbook, and Blurb give you the option of paying to have your book printed and delivered to your home. What a wonderful idea, and a great gift, too! If your kids are daunted by the amount of writing in a book project, perhaps they might like to start with a comic instead. Toon Doo has a great book maker feature.
Find more websites to explore for making digital stories online in my article, Sharing Stories Using Online Editors. Some software I like (available for Mac and PC, not free, but reasonable) for making comics is Comic Life, by Plasq. It's a great program and easy to use. You can see an example of one I made on my website. There are also lots of comic creating spaces online, like Myths and Legends, Creaza and MakeBeliefsComix. A great guest post by Vanessa Levin here at The Book Chook on October 7 suggested ways to get very young kids started with writing books.
Making both digital or print books is a great way for kids to develop skills like sequencing, predicting and finding main ideas. Books they make themselves become treasured family keepsakes, and involve the whole family in creating and communicating. Why not find a wonderful model in the fiction or nonfiction section of your local library to give you some ideas, and get started soon!
On Nov 10, bookmaker extraordinaire, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord will be visiting The Book Chook to share some of her tips and techniques with us. And on I Love to Write Day, 15 November, Tania McCartney, author of the wonderful Riley books and inspiration behind Kids Book Reviews blog, will visit The Book Chook.
If you're thinking that there's a bit of a book theme going --- you're right!