Are you amazed at the creative and clever things your kids say?
Want a way to capture what’s in their imaginations right now and keep it forever?
Looking for a special keepsake your kids can share with family and friends?
Pick up a pen and produce your very own book, written by your kids.
In this article, I’ll show you how easy (and quick) it is to put your children’s thoughts and illustrations down on paper and bind them into a book for everyone to enjoy.
Why Make Books?
Put down your camera phone and log out of YouTube for a little while. The best way to capture the childish handwriting, made-up words and spelling, scribbled artwork and extraordinarily creative written voice and imaginative thinking your kids exhibit right now is an old classic: write a story.
A digital file is hard to hold onto. It’s easily filed away and forgotten. But a book—printed on paper and bound between two covers—is a keepsake to stumble upon and flip through far into the future. A book is something special and lasting.
Create a book with your kids today and enjoy it for years to come.
From the library to the schoolbook order, books are affordable and accessible. Reading books to your kids is a great way to grow their vocabulary and have some bonding time.
You probably have shelves full of books at home, but there’s nothing quite so fun as to read the stories you make up yourselves.
I made these books while I was in elementary school (a long, LONG time ago). The covers are made from wallpaper and cardboard, and the pages are typed and then sewn together.
My kids (ages 1-11) love to write stories down, illustrate them and bind them at home so we can enjoy them for many years to come. Yours will, too.
It only takes about an hour to complete this special project together.
It’s easy to make your own books with nothing more than markers, construction paper, and a stapler. Or you can make a fancier book that’s bound and printed professionally. It’s up to you!
Making your own books is really fun and they make good gifts. Use your name or the name of the recipient in the story itself or just write any story that suits your fancy.
You Will Need
- Paper for pages
- Construction paper
- Markers or crayons
5 minutes to gather equipment
Depending on how long your story is, 15 minutes to several hours
Your books can be long or short, but the most important thing is to have fun making them!
Here’s how to get started:
#1: Gather Materials (5 Minutes)
First, gather the things you’ll need to make your book:
- Paper for pages (White or colored—it’s up to you. Lined pages can be printed below in #3.)
- Card stock or construction paper for covers (Keep in mind that construction paper fades with age.)
- A pen
- Markers and/or crayons
- StaplerLet the adults handle the stapler for safety reasons.
Note: These are the materials needed for a basic, staple-bound book. See additional binding options in #5, below. Those options may take more time.
#2: Make Up the Story (15 Minutes)
Now it’s time to think of your story! Encourage your kids to use their imaginations.
Children can often come up with amazing story ideas even without adult guidance. Let their imaginations go wild!
There are so many things to write stories about. If your children are at a loss about where to start, give them some topic ideas. Here are a few to suggest:
- Write about your life. Even the most mundane topic can become an exciting adventure, depending on how the story is told.
- Write a parody or a retelling of a classic story. It’s fun to take a new look at a story everyone knows and make it funny or scary or just give it a new twist that other people might not have thought of before.
- Add yourself, your friends or your family into a story or situation you like. What would happen if you and your pals were friends with Goldilocks? Or Cinderella? Or a pirate king?
- Use your imagination to create characters and a plot that are all your own. They can be as silly and unbelievable or as realistic as you want. Just be sure to have a main character, a problem or challenge he or she has to solve (most of your story will be about how your character tries to do this) and a result at the end.
You may also want to remind your child that he or she should think about a story arc. In other words, the story should have a beginning, middle and an end. Not only will that help the story make more sense, but it is also good practice for improving your child’s storytelling technique in general.
#3: Write and Illustrate the Story (30 Minutes)
Once you’ve developed a basic outline for your story, it’s time to start writing and illustrating!
Use a pen or a marker to write down the words so they’ll be clear and readable. If your child is too young to write all of the words, you can help him or her out. But do try to capture at least part of the story (a signature, perhaps) in the child’s own handwriting.
You can help your child write down the story.
If your child is writing the story without your help, don’t worry too much about correcting spelling. It’s more important that he or she gets excited about writing than all of the words being spelled correctly. Plus invented spelling adds charm to the book.
You can download and print paper with lines for handwriting and space for illustrations and binding margins. (Screenshot: donnayoung.org)
Remember to leave some white space on every page for pictures.
Be sure to leave a margin on the left side of each page too so that the words and pictures won’t get blocked when you bind the book.
You can use plain white printer paper or download kids’ handwriting paper (PDF) that is formatted with lines and blank spaces just for kids’ projects. There are many different line widths to choose from, so you can print lined, blank-top paper suited to your child’s handwriting.
Make sure that for each illustration, your child focuses on a single idea that’s captured on that page.
Once the story is finished, it’s time to illustrate it. Use crayons or markers to add a picture to each page.
#4: Create a Cover Page (5 Minutes)
Create a cover page for your book with an illustration, the title of the story and the author’s name.
Include the author’s age or the date on the cover. That way, when you read the story again in the future, you’ll know when it was written.
#5: Bind the Book (5 Minutes)
It’s easy to create books spontaneously with construction paper or card stock and a stapler and it’s very low-cost as well. Just line up all of the pages neatly, sandwich between front and back covers and staple along the left side.
If you have the time and want to make something a little fancier, there are a number of alternative methods you can use to bind your books:
If you’re writing a longer (thicker) book, you can bind your book with glue. Here’s a video that provides easy instructions for the “perfect binding” method:
Learn to bind a handmade book with glue using the “perfect binding” method.
Or you can purchase blank bound books and write and illustrate your stories directly into them. You can also decorate the cover of a notebook or journal to write your story in. Since the pages are already bound, this does not leave any room for do-overs, but it does result in a nice-looking book.
Purchase blank hardcover books online and have your kids write their stories directly into them. (Screenshot: barebooks.com)
A third (more expensive) option is to scan your pictures and handwritten story (or type the text), upload to a service like Blurb and order professionally bound hard- or softcover books.
Use a publishing service like Blurb to upload your kids’ stories and turn them into books. (Screenshot: blurb.com)
You can even have a customized dust jacket printed for your book.
With this binding method, you can have several copies of your book printed to give as gifts.
#6: Share Your Story
Now it’s time to share your story.
If you’ve made the book for yourselves, read it together right away.
If it’s for someone else, you can present your book as soon as it’s finished or save it for a special gift-giving occasion. They’re sure to love your unique and very personal gift.
I helped my girls write stories. Then they surprised their father by giving him the books as a birthday present.
A Gift Idea
Last summer, my children and their cousins made a special gift book for my mother’s 70th birthday. The adults bought some gift cards to her favorite shopping spots and restaurants. We assigned a gift card to each of her 11 grandchildren and asked the kids to write a story that connected to the gift card in some way.
Each grandchild wrote and illustrated one page of a story about Super Grandma saving the day around town. We put each page into a plastic sheet protector and bound the pages together in a three-ring binder. Finally, the adults added the gift cards next to the appropriate pages in the story that referenced each shop or restaurant.
My mother thought it was the best present she’d ever received! She had a great time using the gift cards and still has a special book from her grandchildren to treasure and share with her friends.
Some Final Thoughts…
I still love reading the books I wrote as a child. They inspire me to continue writing as an adult and I read them to my own children as well.
Whether you’re telling a story in a tent, playing telephone, creating a comic or video or publishing your own book, creating stories is a blast for children of all ages (even big kids like you, Mom or Dad, so be sure to write one of your own!).
Start making books with your kids today, and soon they’ll collect a whole personalized library of self-written stories to treasure for years to come. As your collection grows, you can compare how story ideas, styles and depth change as your child grows older.
Who knows, you may inspire a future author!
What do you think? Have you and your children written any stories and turned them into books? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear the wonderful tales you have to tell and see a picture of your book!