Make It! Write It! Read It! Book Review

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a DIY book for children that combined learning how to make books with creating a unique story and then sharing it with mom and dad? Luckily, thanks to author and art teacher Wendy Libby, there is. Make It! Write It! Read It! hit book stores this summer and walks children through the process of not only learning how to make their own book, but pairing it with story ideas to fill each of the DIY pages.

Libby’s book offers 23 projects for your child to make that span many lessons they’re learning in school. No special tools are required to make these fun books, just some of the basic art supplies you have in your child’s craft stash.

With so many ways for children to be glued to screens both big and small these days, it was a lot of fun spending time with this book and thinking of great ways to encourage storytelling in my family. I had the chance to ask Libby a few questions about the book recently. Take a look at where she draws her DIY inspiration.

Where did your inspiration for the book come from?

I am an elementary art teacher and continuously advocate for creative experiences for children. Making art and telling stories are two basic means of self-expression and self-development in all cultures. Art activities can be steppingstones to literacy activities and connecting art and literacy generates a way to practice creativity while discovering a meaningful way to use language arts. Allowing children the opportunity and freedom to express themselves through art activities will enrich literacy, as well as all areas of study.

A few years ago I was asked to present a workshop on the connection of art and literacy for the State of Maine Literacy State Conference. For the workshop I prepared several hands-on bookmaking activities for the participants to show them ways art can contribute to literacy development. There was so much interest I was told the workshop registration filled up to capacity with a waiting list. The feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive and I was asked the next year to repeat the workshop. Seeing the interest the literacy community had with the art connection was my inspiration to compile several book making activities, thus leading to the book.

Why is it important to engage children in storytelling?

Storytelling is a form of communication and it benefits children in many ways. It develops the world of imagination and creative thinking. Besides entertainment, storytelling benefits children with literacy development through increase of language skills, word comprehension and enhanced vocabulary. Knowledge on various subjects can be gained, history can be brought alive and children can make connections to different cultures. Telling stories can be a safe way to explore emotions. Storytelling creates a path to the use of language, reading and writing. It is a means for children to engage in listening and participating in speech and communication skills. Oral practice builds confidence and strengthens the ability to problem solve and to think creatively. Concentration skills are enhanced. Storytelling leads toward curiosity, interest attention, creative thinking and participation. Opportunities arise that can lead to extension activities based around the story.

How can parents help children turn their idea into a story to be featured in a DIY book?

Children’s interest, enjoyment and desire to participate in storytelling are innate. Parents, teachers and caregivers should enable children to explore their use of imagination and creativity by making their own book. Discussions on what type of story interests them, such as a storybook, a theme-based book, a poetry, alphabet or counting book, or a simple wordless picture book where the story is told as the child reads the illustrations. If the child has a story in mind a parent can help the child choose a type of book based on the length and content of the story and the materials available. Parents and children can look through and discuss the different bookmaking ideas in Make It! Write It! Read It! Older children can follow directions themselves but help will be needed for younger ones. Step-by-step demonstrations are helpful for them and making a book along with the child gives quality together time. After a book template is chosen, ideas and materials for illustrations can be explored. If necessary, parents can demonstrate how to use materials as well as explain various techniques. Organizing the materials to be used in a handy area is always helpful. Allow them to work independently once they know how to use the materials. Let them exercise their creativity.

Do you have a favorite book to make that you included in your book?

I do not have a favorite book. I enjoy the basic book templates but also love to explore, create and come up with new varieties to express thoughts and ideas. No matter how the book is made there will be a story or two that will develop from it.

Do you think paper books are still important for children in today’s tech-heavy world?

Most definitely. It is important to celebrate the handmade. There is something about holding a book in your hand and turning the pages that make a real connection to the art of writing and illustrating. Experiencing the beautiful art of the paper book illustrations inspires children to make their own illustrations. Possessing an actual paper book unites children to the story and pictures in a tangible bond. I feel paper books make unique, lasting connections between the reader and the book. Bookmaking is an art form in itself. Technology has its place but giving a child a paper book is a gift worth having.


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