LearningTip #49: Growing Readers and Writers Through Bookmaking

By Joyce Melton Pagés, Ed.D.
Educator, President of KidBibs

A child toting a heavy bag out to the car on family errands and excursions....A light shining from the child's closet long after bedtime....A child routinely taking 45-60 minutes to go to the bathroom....

KidBibs' LearningTips
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For the convenience of our readers, KidBibs offers the following writing and bookmaking resources for children, parents, and teachers through Amazon.com:

Parents and Teachers

IlluStory Book Kit by Chemeric

Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn: Books for Kids to Make by Gwen Diehn

A Book of One's Own:  Developing Literacy Through Making Books by Paul Johnson

Classrooms that Work:  They Can All Read and Write by Patricia Cunningham and Richard Allington

Children
From Pictures to Words:  A Book About Making a Book by Janet Stevens

How a Book is Made by Aliki, Spanish edition

Author: A True Story
by Helen Lester

Bill Peet: An Autobiography by Bill Peet

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary

When I was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, Audio cassette

Under My Nose (Meet the Author Series) by Lois Ehlert and Carlo Ontal

Firetalking (Meet the Author Series) by Patricia Polacco and Lawrence Migdale

Can You Imagine? (Meet the Author Series) by Pat McKissack, et. al.

Fine Lines (Meet the Author Series) by Ruth Heller and Michael Emery

Katherine Paterson (Meet the Author Series) by Alice Cary

Jean Craighead George (Meet the Author Series) by Alice Cary

The Writing Bug (Meet the Author Series) by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Diane Rubinger

If You Were a Writer by Joan Lowery Nixon

For this child, these behaviors do not indicate excessive child labor, nighttime fears, or a gastrointestinal problem.  These are simply the behaviors of a child who can't put a book down-----a child who has discovered the charm, delight, and relevance of literature in his/her life.  This is the child who has to have a book at all times.

How do we "grow" children who are drawn into the plot of a book or driven to find answers to their questions in informational books?  How do we inspire that "can't put down the book" feeling?  The answers to these questions reside in the child's experiences with books.  Reading to children, surrounding children with books, and letting children see us read are key to creating children who love to read.   In addition, children who have experienced the hard work, sense of accomplishment, and joy of telling their own story through writing develop a very special appreciation for books. 

Through writing, children learn and practice what writers do.  They use their experiences, imagination, language processes, knowledge of what readers and writers do, phonics, and conventions of print to engage the reader in their story.   Making books for others to enjoy is a wonderful way to provide children with real reasons to spell, capitalize, use punctuation, clarify their thinking, revise, etc.    Further, the strong sense of accomplishment that comes from writing, illustrating, and making a book spurs additional reading and writing!

Writing: Many Options, Growing Possibilities

Organize for Writing and Bookmaking

Read Books About Children's Authors and the Writing Process

Get to Know Children's Authors through their Web Sites

Implement Literature Units and Author Studies

Make Books

Learn About Books

Conduct a Young Author's Conference

In many ways, bookmaking is the glue that binds the reading-writing relationship for readers.  While reading, the young authors notice what the other writers have done to support them.  Engaging in writing provides children with the cognitive "tools" to read.  Engaging in reading provides children with the cognitive "tools" to write.  In other words, they write like readers and they read like writers.  Making books and reading the books published by others broadens the world of the young reader-writer in many ways!

Children can make books at home or at school.  Creating books can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. 

Writing:  Many Options, Growing Possibilities

Children can write for many purposes.  Through writing, children can:

tell a story,
create something new,
explore ideas,
create and explore new places,
experiment with language,
research and learn,
review, summarize, or respond
work through a problem,
learn about himself/herself,
entertain others,
or do many other things. . . .

Children can communicate their ideas in a variety of genres, forms, and formats.  Here are some options:

fiction
traditional literature, realistic fiction
predictable book
poetry
nonfiction
ABC Book, Question-Answer Book, Content Riddle Book
small books, big books
shape books
picture book, pop-up book, flap book, window book, accordion book
multiple ending book
chapter book, anthology

The possibilities are endless.......

In addition to writing wonderful imaginative stories, children can write in every subject.  Writing across the curriculum strengthens learning, extends thinking, provides relevance, and broadens understanding.   A few ideas for whole class or small group content area bookmaking include:

Math--story problem books, stories with a mathematical plot, exploring math in their world, math dictionary, biographies, etc.  See LearningTip #35 and LearningTip #44 for ideas about integrating writing with math.
Social Studies--story of an historical event, biographies, historical fiction, research, class atlas, poetry, explore cultures, etc.  See LearningTip #41 to learn about the Kids Explore series written by the Westridge Young Authors Workshop of Littleton, Colorado.
Science--story of a discovery/invention, information, science dictionary, biographies (of scientists, doctors, inventors, etc.), science fiction, adventure inside a ___ (similar to Magic School Bus), etc.
Health and Physical Education--information, realistic fiction, biographies, collect or make up some games, "About Me" book, etc.
Art and Music--biographies of illustrators, artists, composers, performers; integrate art and/or music into their stories, write and illustrate a song, write an adventure that could take place in a painting, research and write about the story behind a piece of art or music, etc. 

Shapes, colors, paper types, writing/art media, formats, and bindings also provide many bookmaking options. Some of these are explained later. Further, other bookmaking ideas are available from a Making Books mailring.Click here to register, participate, and get great ideas from this mailring!

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Options

Authors' Books

Authors' Sites

Author Studies

Make Books

About Books

Young Authors' Conf.

 

Organize for Writing and Bookmaking

Children enjoy writing and publishing their books.  Whole class and small group bookmaking experiences can ease less confident young writers into independent writing.  The following options help children enjoy different types of bookmaking experiences:

whole class book through dictation---children dictate to the teacher who writes the story on pages for children to illustrate

whole class book created by pages of individual children---each child or pair of children create one page; the separate pages are bound together

small groups---children in a small group write the story or informational piece to be included in the book

pairs of children (same ages)---class buddies or partners from different classes write the book together

pairs of children (different ages)---an older child works with a younger child to write the book

individual child writes---can reflect a simple story put in the form of a book or a piece created by using the writing process of drafting, writing, revising, and editing

individual child dictates---the child dictates his/her story while an adult writes it down in neat printing

Children who are supported in their reading-writing development learn how to turn their thoughts into well-expressed ideas that others experience, enjoy, and appreciate.  They learn that writing involves:

  1. generating ideas to write about

  2. selecting a topic to write about

  3. jotting the ideas down in draft form (often referred to as a "sloppy copy")

  4. revising to clarify ideas

  5. thinking about their audience and purpose for writing, revising again if needed

  6. editing to support the reader of their ideas

The internet provides many excellent resources for young writers.  The Young Author's Workshop web site explains the writing process and includes links/resources on the writing process that can help children at different stages of the writing process.

Many teachers implement Writing Workshops to help children develop as writers.  According to Graves (1997), effective teachers acknowledge that writing is hard and set-up a classroom which provides a supportive structure for students to choose topics, confer with each other, and start new pieces as they choose.  He suggests six writing time rules for students.

Writer's Workshop Rules
Donald Graves, 1997

  1. Write continuously on subjects you, the student, choose.  (Among other benefits, giving students choice eliminates the disruption that can occur when students wait for you to "okay" their new topics, or to give them topics.)

  2. After finishing one piece, you may take a short break by reading, drawing, or completing other work before beginning another piece.

  3. When you finish a piece, put it in your work folder.  Keep all your writing papers in the folder.  If you take your folder home, bring it back the next day.

  4. Store paper, folders, and writing implements in one place and do not waste them.

  5. If you need specific help, first ask two other students, then consult with the teacher.

  6. You may confer with others about your writing, but not for more than four or five minutes. 

Donald Graves' web site includes Tips for the Teaching of Writing. Through mini-lessons, conferencing, getting response, and publishing, young writers are given the opportunity to learn about and experience what writers do.   A few books that support this type of instruction include:

Writing: Teachers and Children at Work by Donald Graves

The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy McCormick Calkins

In the Middle: New Understandings about Writing, Reading, and Learning by Nancie Atwell

Further, the Writer's Workshop is an integral part of Patricia Cunningham's Four-Blocks Model to teaching reading and writing.  Cunningham and Richard Allington have authored Classrooms that Work:  They Can All Read and Write to provide practical strategies for implementing this reading-writing instruction.  Cheryl Sigmon's articles on Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model provide additional practical ideas for implementing this instruction.  Finally, teachers can sign-up for the Four-Blocks Mailring (on the Teachers.net Mailring Page) to "discuss" strategies for implementing this model in the classroom.  

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Options

Organizing

Authors' Sites

Author Studies

Make Books

About Books

Authors' Conf.


Read Children's Books About Authors and the Writing Process

One of the best ways to help children develop as writers is to show them what writers do.  Writing is hard.  It requires thinking, planning, and experimenting with ways to communicate ideas.  Further, it requires the writer to invest his/her time, energy, and self in the process.  Children become frustrated when they can't come up with an idea, they don't know how to say what they're thinking, they don't know what to say next, etc. In addition, many children want to write their ideas down once and call it "done."   It helps for them to know that the authors of their favorite books have experienced the same situations and feelings.  Autobiographies and biographies of children's book authors can often help children learn this and develop as writers.  The following books (linked to Amazon.com) may be helpful:

Author: A True Story by Helen Lester

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Bill Peet: An Autobiography by Bill Peet

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary

When I was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, Audio cassette

Avi (Meet the Author Series) by Lois Markham

Best Wishes (Meet the Author Series) by Cynthia Rylant and Carlo Ontal

A Bookworm Who Hatched (Meet the Author Series) by Verna Aardema and Dede Smith

Can You Imagine? (Meet the Author Series) by Pat McKissack, et. al.

A Dream Come True (Meet the Author Series) by Johanna Hurwitz and Michael Craine

Fine Lines (Meet the Author Series) by Ruth Heller and Michael Emery

Firetalking (Meet the Author Series) by Patricia Polacco and Lawrence Migdale

Gary Paulsen (Meet the Author Series) by Stephanie True Peters

Growing Ideas (Meet the Author Series) by Jean Van Leeuwen and David Gavril

Hau Kola: Hello Friend (Meet the Author Series) by Paul Goble and Gerry Perrin

Katherine Paterson (Meet the Author Series) by Alice Cary

Lois Lowry (Meet the Author Series) by Lois Markham

My Writing Day (Meet the Author Series) by David A. Adler and Nina Crews

Once Upon a Time (Meet the Author Series) by Eve Bunting and John Pezaris

One Man Show (Meet the Author Series) by Frank Asch and Jan Asch

Playing with Words (Meet the Author Series) by James Howe and Michael Craine

Surprising Myself (Meet the Author Series) by Jean Fritz and Andrea Fritz Pfleger

Tell Me a Story (Meet the Author Series) by Jonathan London and Sherry Shahan

Thoughts, Pictures and Words (Meet the Author Series) by Karla Kuskin and Nicholas Kuskin

Under My Nose (Meet the Author Series) by Lois Ehlert and Carlo Ontal

A Wordful Child (Meet the Author Series) by George Ella Lyon and Ann W. Olson

The Writing Bug (Meet the Author Series) by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Diane Rubinger

Jean Craighead George (Meet the Author Series) by Alice Cary

Children's fiction can also support children's understanding of the writing process.

If You Were a Writer by Joan Lowery Nixon

Write Up a Storm With the Polk Street Kids by Patricia Reilly Giff

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Options

Organizing

Authors' Books

Author Studies

Make Books

About Books

Young Authors' Conf.

 

Get to Know Authors Through their Web sites

Numerous children's book authors and illustrators have posted web sites.  These web sites include a wide variety of features.   They often include a brief autobiography, a list of his/her books, activities to do with their books, and writing tips.  The following web pages include links to many web sites of children's literature authors and illustrators:

Just for Kids Who Love Books

Children's Literature Web Guide links to authors and illustrators on the web

Fairrosa Cyber Library links to authors and illustrators

Index to Children's Book Authors and Illustrators

Yahooligans Directory of Authors and Illustrators

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Options

Organizing

Authors' Books

Authors' Sites

Make Books

About Books

Authors' Conf.


Implement Literature Units and Author Studies

Reading and enjoying children's literature together can be a fun way to get to know a book.  Through literature units, children can discuss, create, and respond in a variety of ways.  Mrs. Taverna's second grade class at Pocantico Hills School in Sleepy Hollow, New York show some of their creativity on their Charlotte's Web page.

Learning about authors can also be very inspiring.  Author studies help children learn about authors through their books.  Author studies usually involve reading books by the same author, examining the author's style, visiting the author's web site, and doing other things to help young writers broaden their understanding of what writers do.  This encourages them to explore their options as writers/illustrators. 

Elizabeth Rimkunas' article, Writing Mentors for Elementary School Students, explains how she uses children's literature to help elementary students recognize an author's style and use it to support their writing. 

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Options

Organizing

Authors' Books

Authors' Sites

Author Studies

About Books

Young Authors' Conf.

Make Books

Children's books can be made at home or at school.   Different colors, types, textures, and weights of paper can be used.  Bindings can vary from simple stapling to metal rings through hole-punched pages and formal stitched bindings.  Even a folder with brads can be used to "bind" a child's story.  Heart-shaped books for Valentine's Day, face-shaped "About Me" books, cloud-shaped books about the weather, etc. and other shapes make bookmaking especially motivating for children.  Children also like to use flaps (taping a paper flap on top of a word or picture), windows (cutting a "window" in the page so the item on the next page in that spot is visible), and [what I call] "boing" books (with children gluing a tiny 4- or 5-fold accordion to the page and a small paper picture that springs up when the page is opened (folds neatly down) for the next page to be turned). Pop-up books, accordion books, and others can also be created.

The following children's books use illustrations and text to provide wonderful explanations of how a book is made:

From Pictures to Words:  A Book About Making a Book by Janet Stevens

How a Book is Made by Aliki, Spanish edition

Teacher and parent books about bookmaking include:

A Book of One's Own:  Developing Literacy Through Making Books by Paul Johnson

Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn: Books for Kids to Make by Gwen Diehn

Jackie French Koller, author of dozens of books for children and adolescents, has provided online directions for publishing a bookThe following web sites provide directions for binding books:

Bookbinding: A Tutorial by Douglas W. Jones (University of Iowa Dept. of Computer Science) and the Center for the Book

How to Make a Pop-up by Joan Irvine

Make Your Own Pop-up Noodles!  Download a template and follow the directions.

Concertina Book Instructions by Jeanne Drewes

The 4-Needle Book (Directions) by Green Heron Book Arts

Bookbinding Instructions adapted from Boys' Life

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Options

Organizing

Authors' Books

Authors' Sites

Author Studies

Make Books

Young Authors' Conf.


Learn About Books

From pictures on cave walls to the present time, humankind has sought out opportunities to express ideas in writing. Providing children with an opportunity to learn about books, printing, paper, and other aspects of publishing can stimulate more interest in books.  

Book (Eyewitness Books) by Karen Broofield and Laurence Pordes provides a tremendous amount of information for the book lover.

In addition the following web sites provide interesting information about books:

History of Printing--information on printing before and including the Gutenberg Press

Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking--take a virtual tour of the history of paper

Book Factory Virtual Tour by Thomson-Shore Company

Book Arts Web--Peter Verheyen provides numerous links and resources related to the book arts

 

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Options

Organizing

Authors' Books

Authors' Sites

Author Studies

Make Books

About Books


Conduct a Young Author's Conference

Many schools conduct Young Authors' Conferences to support children's development as writers.  These conferences often merge several elementary schools or serve a region.   Young Authors' Conferences often include:

These Young Authors' Conferences can be sponsored by a school district, professional reading/teacher organization, or a university college of education.  Teacher education students can assist with the groups of students sharing their books, the parent workshop, etc. 

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Options

Organizing

Authors' Books

Authors' Sites

Author Studies

Make Books

About Books

Authors' Conf.

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Conclusion

Learning and celebrating are one when young readers and writers make books.  Varied tools and strategies support the development of young readers and writers in motivating ways.  The learning and success gained from these experiences can last a lifetime----and turn some young authors into professional writers who will inspire that "can't put the book down" feeling in the next generation of young authors!

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