Making Books

handmade children’s book-Cottage Garden Library using hole-punched plastic page covers (sleeves) and clip rings to assemble

I love making books for children. I started writing and constructing books as a teacher of young children in the early seventies. The first instance I recall was after recording what children said when a farmer visited our preschool leaving us with two kids, baby goats, for the day. The children petted, held and observed as the babies hopped up on tables, ran through the sandbox and ate their crackers at snack time. What a hullabaloo! I took a roll of film that day and after developing it the children glued them to pages and provided the words for our story. We posted it on the door for families. Then by the end of the year, we had twenty or so little books and big books recording our experiences-some illustrated by the children, other with photos and others with cut outs from magazines.

Those classroom books were rarely found on the bookshelf-because they were always out in circulation, sitting at the top of the climbing fort, in the playhouse, in the bathroom or on tables in the play areas. Lovingly used.

Over time, my use of books and way of making them has evolved. I often asked parents to contribute, making books with their children at home about getting glasses, magazine collages, painting or sketching to share with the class. I recall a fabulous year long poetry book we did that way each child choosing a poem to take home and bringing it back to add to our home illustrated poetry collection.

           I was fortunate to have had a fabulous creative arts teacher, post baccalaureate, at Cabrillo Community College in the Early Childhood Education Department. She had us scavenging through trash bins for cardboard, old hinges, clips and folders to use in our book-making endeavors. She taught us how to stitch the covers, glue fabric on them, or use clip rings and yarn to bind the pages. We had a laminator, a spiral binding machine and a weighted press for printmaking. I loved using all that equipment, but wanted to be able to assemble classroom books in the evenings on my kitchen table or with the children on the carpet at group time.

           Drug stores sold rolls of clear contact paper (do they still have them?) plastic, actually, that would hold anything in place, even little bouquets of wildflowers from a walking field trip.  I went through yards of clear contact. With the availability of glue sticks that allowed children to set things in place without the sticky mess or drying time of white glue, they would assemble lace their own books together on the spot and take them home. We kept baskets of book making supplies available for this purpose, magazines to cut pictures and Polaroid cameras with those expensive little film packets.

           I’d take a bag of supplies for my own children to make books during family vacations and encouraged them to make book gifts for grandparents and teachers. Sometimes I’d suggest topics or titles for them to tackle. I recall at a timely project, called, “Me and My Brother” My two boys, at around 7 and 4 years assembled a book together, drew pictures and wrote words about what they liked to play together. They’d been arguing, seemed out of synch. The book pulled them a little closer, served to reconnect them. Titles like, Going to the Dentist, My Surgery, The New School, The Airplane Trip, and The Dead Dog (their words), focused on transitions and meaningful events offered them extra support. They could sleep with their favorites and often did. Books have always been another way to for me to talk with them, extend thinking on a subject and also allowed them to reflect on worries, misinformation and to revisit delightful discoveries and passages of childhood.

My children now, (my grandchildren) make books at school, continued the stapling and drawing of little books through early childhood. I provided supplies at home, too. At ages 9 and 12 they still often sit and write books with illustrations, photos or special collections.

Today I discovered a stack of books I made for and with my grandchildren at different ages. Many of them are assembled using punched plastic sleeves or page covers and bound in an old folder, grocery bag, manila mailing envelope, disassembled shoe box or carton and covered with fabric or report cover, binder with snap rings. Would you like to see a video of me assembling a book? I’ll try it out next week and post unless its horrible.  Some of my Grandchildren’s stack:

Toddler Books

Liza Turns One, a photo collection assembled with punched heat laminated page covers (waterproof and washable)

At Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house, illustrated with photos and labels

Up, Up, Up Into the Trees, images of visiting grandma’s house, one word labels

Trip to visit Thomas the Train

Looking for Thomas, a photo and story book about Thomas the Train visiting at a nearby park

Photo Collection with names of people in the family, laminated on 6 by 8 small cards

Doll goes on a mountain hike

A Toddler’s Adventure-taking a doll on a hike and photographing her various places, the child positions the doll and we thing of what to say about her, is she in danger? Grandpa was a good sport on this one.

Preschoolers’ illustrations

Preschooler’s Books

Adventure story narrated by child and illustrated with toy photos

A Scary Morning, a rather silly story with photos of toys for telling three-year old grandson’s story

Short story co-written with child about a family move

Where Are You? A book to support my 2 ½ yr old grandson’s big move to Montana-toys, play and discovery-a concrtete way to play with a big change

photos and questions generated by children about changing schools

Bonny Doon School, leaving childcare and going to a big new school, transition support, photos of the new school environment making connections with preschool

Well loved book to address differences among us..a favorite

The Missing Squeak, the mouse born without a squeak, story and art, theme: differences and resilience

child’s view of a favorite topic, child illustrated

Chicks favorite topic explored, child’s words, drawings and photos

Read Aloud Story Books by adults

Instructions: how to make a tiny tea set
Print shop bound adult conceived story adventure themes: making art, loneliness

Grandma Mouse, a story with art collage and words when my grandchildren moved away

Engaging, interactive photo book with information about a new place

Exploring Our World, a series begun by Grandma documenting vacations and interesting trips away from home-asking child centered (school age) questions about places in the world, Brazil, Peru, New Zealand, photos and stories

For an adult:

Operating Manual Tongue-in-cheek Instructions for a new step mom, photos and instructions, support and information

Make a book or two this month for your family. Enjoy, Gma

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