The public library is good for many things, one of which is to aptly showcase just how much junk manages to find a publisher. I am sometimes amazed at what passes for literature. Even many picture books have the most inane text. I’ve often thought, “I could do better than that! My 6-year-old could write better than that!” And so, we do.
Really, it’s about more than just trying to write a better book. It’s also a matter of greater understanding of the subject by living it and then explaining it. What better way to get a concept than to search for manifestations of it in real life and then make your own book about it? Instead of just reading someone else’s books about colors, shapes, or parts of speech, lead your children to find and demonstrate these things and write about them themselves.
One fine, fall day we were feeling the need to be outdoors enjoying the beauty of the earth, but I was also feeling the need for some academic accomplishment. I decided we could find a way to do both—at the same time. Loading up the kids and the camera, we headed for a canyon trail. I explained to the kids that while we were hiking we were on a hunt to find circles and opposites. We had a glorious time partaking of nature and gathering conceptual evidence for future projects.
A few weeks later, we made our own concept books. For the circles, we used paper plates, the top one with a cutout, secured together with a brad. We glued the photos of circles around the edge of the bottom plate. We then had a spinning book of circles. For opposites, we made a page for each pair of opposites, gluing on the photos and writing what they stood for. We kept this project simple and just hole-punched the pages and put them in a small folder. Even though these were simple and “unprofessional,” my kids were very proud of their work.
The benefits of this approach are many and varied. Real life application is always a good thing. Doing it this way also involved more senses and learning styles; it gave them something to touch and move with as well. Writing about it after doing it reinforced and cemented the concepts. It also introduced symbolism.
These kinds of projects can be as simple and homemade or as “professional” as you’d like them to be. You can use basic, on-hand supplies and let the kids cut and paste, or you can have them do it on a template for a real bound book from somewhere like picaboo.
Besides concept books, you can write your own history or science books. My favorite way to do state history is to travel the state and make our own book of important places, events, industry, geography, etc. by seeing it in person and writing about it.
Make it real, make it at home. You and your kids can be authors, too!
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