Books. It's what overflows our shelves and what binds our characteristics to our imaginations—from childhood to adulthood. What makes them so valuable? Well, for starters, books are timeless. They grow with us. And if we're lucky, we pass these (in good condition) down to future generations.
Some of the favorite books we have added to our collection are the ones we find in used bookstores, where on the inside cover a handwritten dedication is inked. Decades may have lapsed between the first book owner and my collection, but it is this personalization, the intent of the purchaser to the recipient, that is humbling and tells a story of its own.
I created my very first book as part of an English assignment in 7th grade. I used contact paper over cardboard torn from the flaps of a box for the covers, and stapled folded notebook paper for its pages. Wanting to perfect my book, I bit my lip and asked the cute boy that sat behind me to help me with the illustrations. He did...and I got an A on the assignment. I didn't realize at the time how much purpose and value there was in completing my own book, until many years later.
You see, my story included "oh no, what will I do now?" drama that my princess-in distress daughter loves and funny pictures that has my son rolling on the ground laughing (perhaps rightfully so, because as it turned out, I also married that illustrator from seventh grade). Today, this book still sits pretty on the shelf in our family room (thank you, duct tape) and has created memories for both me and my husband—even now, 20 years later—with our children.
Making your own book as a family is a wonderful way to create memories and preserve a bit of history, too. From the art of crafting it together to its contents collected between the covers (photos, drawings, a journal of their own words), these kinds of books have a timeless value and shelf life for the authors, the illustrators, and the readers both present and future.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Grab some books of various sizes and textures, like hard covers and paperbacks, and content, such as a picture books, dictionaries, magazines, photo albums, pop-up books, baby cloth or board books, and textbooks. Review each one with your child asking him to describe its similarities and differences. Examine the spine, explore with questions like "how is it put together?" and "what does it smell like?"
2. Now you're ready to make your own book! Begin with gathering materials around the house. Cardboard box flaps serve as great sturdy covers, as well as CD jewel cases, binders, or folders with fasteners.
3. If needed, wrap the outside cover using contact paper, brown paper bags, gift wrapping paper, or even fabric (like from clothes your kids have outgrown). Let the kids craft the front design using their favorite art supplies or try pipe cleaners, beads, googly-eyes, stickers, and stenciling. (Careful with the glitter!)
4. For the content, create your own paper for your book! This is a great messy art project to do with your preschooler, blending in a bit of science lessons along the way. Here's a simple step-by-step video you can do at home while also teaching kids about recycling old paper. Add some food coloring for a bit of extra magic!
5. If you create your own paper, binding them together will be a cinch due to its organic nature. Use a needle and clear thread, or colored embroidery. Fasten the set into the cover using strong glue, and let it set over night.
6. Now your book is ready to be written!
One of our favorite storytelling pastimes is to lead with a subject matter and then ask the kids "and then what happened next?" or "and she opened the door and saw...?" This is a "Mad Lib" approach that is guaranteed to spark very creative and wild stories. On each page, have them draw what their imagination created, leaving enough space at the bottom for you to write their sentences.
Now that your child's book is published, talk about the process that it took to make their own book, and how special its originality is. Resist the temptation to tuck it away into their keepsake box, and instead replace your coffee table book with this one, so that it can be read over and over again for years to come.
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