Book Factory

5 smart starter ideas for making homemade books

By Ellen Booth Church



Book Factory

You know how much your child loves books. Now imagine that the book is something that you created together — her own art and words magically combined to create a literary masterpiece. She will want to read it over and over again.

Books can open the door to the expression of ideas and feelings in a visual and tactile way. The process of creating handmade books with your child is an intimate way to experience communication through art and words. Not only will you share the actual book, you will also share in every step of its construction.

One of the important literacy skills your child needs to learn is "concepts of print." These concepts include the basic understanding of what a book is, the ability to recognize the front and back covers, and the capacity to turn the pages correctly from front to back. Emergent readers also need to learn how to "read" the story of a book from the pictures. Your child gains hands-on experience with all these literacy skills by constructing her own books. Plus, they make a wonderful keepsake that your child will cherish forever. Here are some of our favorite bookmaking ideas to experiment with:

The Great Greeting-Card Book
Ever wonder what to do with all those greeting cards you get each year? Transform the card fronts into a storybook.

  1. Ahead of time, cut the fronts of the cards from the backs. This will help your child focus on the illustrations.
  2. Lay out your collection of card fronts and ask your child to explore all the different illustrations. She might enjoy sorting them into the categories of animals, people, places, and things.
  3. Invite her to choose a card to start the story. Perhaps it's an animal. You might say, "Once upon a time there was a __." Encourage her to tell you about the character. Take dictation of her words.
  4. Have her choose another card to continue the story. If she chooses another animal card she might say, "The puppy saw his friend the kitten and they went off to play."
  5. Continue with several cards until she has a story collection she likes.
  6. Paste the card fronts on colorful construction paper, write her words below or above the illustrations, and staple the pages together.

Note: It is helpful for you to demonstrate storytelling several times before you expect your child to create a finished product.

My Day Book
Your child is probably just beginning to understand the concept of time. One of the best ways for her to learn about telling time is to mark the passage of time with specific personal events. "Nine o'clock" is difficult for her to understand, but the "time preschool starts" is easy! Make a book that celebrates the things she does throughout the day.

  1. Use simple white paper plates as clock-face pages. Start the book with the hour your child gets up in the morning and end it with the hour she goes to bed.
  2. Starting with the first page, you can either draw the time (like a standard clock face) or write the time (like a digital clock). Ask your child what she does at that time.
  3. Invite her to draw a picture to illustrate each page. Or take a picture of whatever your child is doing at each hour. When the pictures are developed, she can paste these on the pages of her book.
  4. Use one more paper plate for the cover. Your child might like to draw a picture of her face to fill the shape. Add a title, such as "Rachel's Day Book."
  5. Stack the paper-plate pages together. (If you used the front of each plate, they will easily nest together.) Use a hole puncher to make two holes along the left side of the pages. Bind the book with brass brads (from stationery stores), yarn, or string.

My Daily Words 
How many times has your child asked how to spell names and words to add to his drawings and cards? Here is a simple and educational technique: Make these questions into your child's very own picture dictionary!

  1. Use an old-fashioned composition notebook or a sturdy spiral notebook as the basis for the book.
  2. Designate the first page as the title page. Invite your child to decorate it and write his name in the title ("Peter's Daily Words").
  3. Whenever your child shows interest in a word, write it in big block letters on the left page of the book. Invite him to help you find a picture in a magazine or online to illustrate the word and paste it on the right page. (Use the "image search" on Google for quick access to pictures.) By placing the word on the left and the illustration on the right, you will be creating a picture dictionary spread for each turn of the page.
  4. Often children ask how to spell someone's name. He can paste a photo of the person on the right page, and you write the name on the left. Other typical "how-do-you-spell" words include: Happy Birthday (draw or paste a birthday cake) and I Love You (draw a heart or two).
  5. Don't be surprised if some of his favorite words are BIG ones. Young children love the sounds of words such as "Mississippi" or "tyrannosaurus rex"!

Ribbon Accordion Book
This is a quick and easy book. Plus, the unique finished product is so satisfying and pretty that your child will be thrilled with the "professional quality" of the results.
You will need several 5" x 5" squares of cardboard and 1 yard of fabric ribbon, at least 2 inches wide. (If you have trouble collecting cardboard, replace the squares with 5" x 8" index cards.)

  1. Invite your child to draw and write her story on a series of the cardboard squares. Use as many squares as he wants to fill.
  2. When she is finished with the drawings, glue (with white glue) the squares to a length of ribbon that is at least 10 inches longer than the number of pages in the book.
  3. Starting about five inches down from the top, show your child how to place the first square of the story carefully on the ribbon. Place the next square in the sequence about one inch below that, and so on.
  4. When the book is dry, the squares can be folded up together like an accordion and the ribbon ends tied in a bow to hold it together. A beautiful book!

My Family Recipe Book
Everyone has favorite recipes they like to share with family and friends. Enlist your child as the illustrator for your family recipe book, which can be given as a gift. Write or type the recipe at the top of the each page, leaving room at the bottom for her drawing. To make the recipe book durable enough to withstand a busy kitchen, you can put the pages in sheet protectors (from office supply or stationary stores) and use brass brads or fancy claw-style paper clips to bind them together. Make several photocopies to pass out at family gatherings!

Helpful Hints
Quality construction is key. Young children love to hear and "read" their own books just as much — or more — than library books. It's a good idea to use a construction technique that will last. Magnetic page (or pocket) photo albums are a fast way to make a durable book that can survive years of reading and re-reading. Just slip your child's art and writing into the pages and add a drawing or collage for the cover. The mini photo albums found in dollar stores are excellent for personal books and diary/journals.

Bookmaking is a long-term project. It is important to note that these book projects are best done over several days and weeks. By doing one page at a time, you will keep your child's interest level up and teach her the joy of returning again and again to a long-term project. Great for building her attention span and work skills too!

Reading Activities
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Word Recognition
Early Reading
Arts and Crafts