If your kids are anything like mine, they like food better if they help make it.
They think the Christmas tree is more beautiful if they decorate it.
They think their outfits are MUCH better if they pick them out.
Face it, kids like things that they had a hand in making. A sense of pride and ownership goes a long way to motivate children.
So today I have some of my favorite ways to incorporate that love of “making it myself” into raising readers.
1. Books that use words to label pictures:
Starting very young, kids can help make a book of favorite objects. Let your child choose what they want in a book titled “My Favorite Things.” Snap pictures of those objects, like “my house,” “my teddy,” and “cheese puffs.” Print the pictures one to a page; label in clear, capital letters; and string, staple or glue together. (Closely watch young kids around staples!)
If your child is old enough, he or she can trace some of the letters. Let younger kids “decorate” the white spaces of pages with crayons.
When you read the book together, be sure to model how to point to the word with one finger as you say it. Reinforce the connection between the written word and the picture by saying “This word is Teddy.” Encourage your child to read the book to you and to point to the words. Don’t worry about explaining letter sounds – just the idea that the words represent the picture is the goal here. Reinforce also that your child made the book and that it is his/hers.
You can make any number of this type of book with your child, choosing themes like Vacation, Animals, Family, Colors…anything you think of! Feel free to draw or let your child use stickers or cut out pictures from magazines instead of pictures from a camera. The sky is the limit!
2. Books that reinforce familiar words and phrases.
The word your kid is going to want to see the most is his or her name. Starting around 3 years old, I introduced books with a series of 5 or six partially completed pages that looked like this:
The child then used crayons to turn the shape into a picture, like these:
Then I would write in the word and have my child trace it or let them write it as they grew older.
The repetition of familiar words on each page makes the child confident in their ability to read the book. The fact that they drew the pictures makes it exciting and interesting. They will want to read this over and over to everyone they meet!
Again, reinforce that the child should point to each word as they read it. They will rush through at this stage, and that’s OK. Occasionally say things like “Which word is ‘draw?'” to help cement the idea that each group of letters represents a different word in the sentence.
Some other phrases you might use are:
Jack likes ______________. Karen eats ________________.
I go to _____________. This is my ________________.
3. A clever puzzle!
Choose an object that your child can easily describe, like a car, a piece of fruit, an animal.
Ask your child to help you make a book that gives clues about the object so someone reading the book can guess what it is.
On each page write one simple sentence or clue. Here’s an example we made a few years ago:
Let your child help as much as he is able at this stage. Then have him read it to friends and family to see if they can guess his riddle! My 6-year-old has moved on to reading Magic Tree House and the like, but she still enjoys getting this simple book out to read!
4. Tell me a story.
Your child at ages 5-7 is able to create much better stories than she would ever be able to write down, and to use words she is not quite ready to read. This is a great time to have her read her own words.
Have your child tell you a story in her own words. Write it down, leaving room for illustrations if you’d like. Read it to your child, making sure to point out the words that might be difficult to read. Let her illustrate it if she wants to, then ask her to read it back to you. You’ll be amazed at how many words she recognizes when they are her own!
5. Get a kit.
Sometimes, kids want something nicer than paper stapled together. If a notebook is not enough, you can get some great make-your-own-book kits from toy, craft and book stores. Some include stickers, markers, story ideas, even items to make a pop-up book. We really like the Creativity for Kids line by Faber-Castell.
6. Make it look professional.
Some great make-your-own-book sites are out there to help you and your child put their stories on the page.
Scribblitt.com gives free access to story, comic and illustration tools, with options to purchase hard copies. Gift cards are available for the site, too.
LuLuJr sells book-making kits for kids that let your child write and draw the story or comic, ship it to them (for free) and they will turn it into a professionally bound book!
Use a photo-book site like Shutterfly and add text as captions.
7. Go crazy!
These were a lot of quick and simple ideas I’ve done with my kids. They don’t require a lot of prep time or special equipment. However, if you and your kids really enjoy making books and getting creative together, you should absolutely check out the website Making Books by Susan Gaylord. She has amazing ideas and resources for the craftier and more dedicated among you.
Do you make books with your kids? I’d love to hear some of your ideas.
Don’t forget our ongoing Readers ABC Challenge for kids 4-15. They can win a $25 gift card or a magazine subscription just for exploring literacy! Please share this contest with your friends!