Book-making elves

picture of adapted books on the Lion King, with single word phrases on each page.We’ve found that homemade books are one of the best ways to draw Diva into books these days. The books that are visually appropriate are often not textually engaging for her. Simple, bright pictures are best, due to her CVI, but the books with such things often say, “up and down” or “square, circle, triangle”. She’s nine years old. She needs books about things that relate to her life. We’ve made books about the ocean, recycling, ancient Rome, and The Lion King. Since we started using these styles of books with her, her story engagement has dramatically increased. She picks books up off the floor and signs “more” when I ask if she wants to hear them again. So I thought I’d share the three easiest ways that we’ve found to make books for her.

1. Repurpose board books.

We take old board books and re-do them into topics that are more fitting for a nine year old. We cover the pages in construction paper, add one high-contrast per page, and add one word or sentence to each page. We choose to use big letters in bright colors, often red, due to her CVI.

2. Make alphabet books.

We have an alphabet book template that we use on Keynote. Every time she has a new topic in social studies or science, we make an alphabet book. A is for aqueduct, B is for baths… This way we can use whatever she is doing at school to practice all the literacy and alphabet stuff that she enjoys. I don’t know that Diva will master all the concepts of the Ancient Rome unit in two weeks, especially when she’s only in science or social studies for half the period. I do know that she can grow as a reader and has an unknown potential to be a literate citizen of the world. I know that she can learn more about how we learn, how we get information, and how we share that information back out with the world. So we use these times to create materials that practice all those skills, and continuously keep plugging along.

3. Create simple picture books.

This is when I really follow her interests to create books that she can manipulate and read herself. This is supposed to be some of the yummy stuff for her, the things that will draw her in and entice her to dance a little further down the literacy track. I use pictures of things that are fascinating to her. Diego. Favorite food labels. The Lion King. We usually use single words or a predictable sentence frame (“I like…” or “I see…”). When we use single words, I try to use ones that are in her AAC device and can lead to conversation. “Eat” next to a picture of Simba eating a grub is a great conversation starter — “eat more”, “no eat”, “want eat”, “uh-oh”, “gross”, and “no way!” There is so much opportunity to model language. As she grows in her language, we can grow these books. Simple white sticker labels can replace the current words with longer phrases, longer text. It takes no time at all to make — save a few food labels, cut out some toys from a catalog, print 5-6 pictures from a favorite movie… Glue the pictures on bright paper, use a marker to write a line of text, and use packing tape to put the pages together. (Bonus of packing tape to put pages together = the pages tend to separate more and be easier for young kids and kids with fine motor delays to open and close their own books.)

Braille – For Diva, we add braille to all of her books using a Braille label maker. We place the Braille label over the text, unless it seems like it will interfere dramatically with the readability of the text. Diva is not likely to be a Braille reader — large print text and audiobooks are more likely. I don’t want to limit her, though, and I also want to give her a tactile experience of the printed word. She can then feel what it means to be a letter, to be a word, to be a sentence. She can feel that words are separate entities, that lines of text end, and that text runs from left to right. I never leave off Braille from her books now.

So, there you have it, three quick and easy ways to make your own books. We made 5 books today as part of preparing for Christmas, so I know it really can be fast. Now — to hope she enjoys the new books that focus on her favorite cinematic characters… The hyenas from The Lion King.

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