Today’s guest article is written by Alice Kuipers, author of several novels and three picture books; Violet and Victor write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book, Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale, and her newest release, Polly Diamond and the Book of Magic. Born in England, she currently lives in Saskatoon with husband Yann Martel and their four children.
Making a book with your kids is one of the most lovely mementos you can create together. But it takes a little patience (believe me, I have four children under the age of nine!) Despite not all of our plans working out, some of the books we have made together have been so gorgeous that I want to share my tips with you.
Only my oldest two children can actually write words so, if we’re making a book together, I just write down the story the youngest are telling. Either they draw the pictures or we cut the images out. They tell me what’s happening (There was a baby in the dark woods!) and I note it down, even if it doesn’t always make sense.
Use Online Tools and Images
Places like Storybird or Photobox can help you make an absolutely stunning book with your kids. On Storybird the images are provided and kids can make up their own stories. I do the typing for the younger kids with Storybird images.
Photobox (like any photo book site) is a great place to upload family images or photographs that kids have taken themselves, and then they can add their own story to the images. These sites can get expensive if you’re making lots of books or long books, and so I only occasionally print out finished projects. Folding paper and stapling it or sewing it with string makes for lovely books too.
Use Other Books to Inspire You
We just made books based on Emily Gravett’s Blue Chameleon. We read the book over and over, then we cut out a heap of chameleons, coloured them in, stuck them into books we’d stapled, and told our own versions of the story. Any book that your kids love can be used as inspiration like this.
If a kid is stuck, ask them questions: What happened next? What did the character do? These questions help their creativity and keep them focused on the page, and these questions help kids to find the next bit of their story.
Some Books Have No Words
Sometimes kids get a bit intimidated at the idea of filling up every page with words. Remind them that some books have no words in (or conversely, if they don’t like to draw, no pictures!) Sometimes pages never get filled. Sometimes books never get finished—I only finish half the books that I start, and I’m a professional writer!
Don’t Edit (a lot)
I know, I know, real books need lots of editing (oh, how I know—my most recent book took seven years of rewriting). Having worked on books with classrooms and with individual kids, I’ve learned that too much editing takes a lot of the fun out of the creation of the book. Older kids like to hone a sloppy copy into something more perfect, but it’s okay if a spelling mistake slips in, or if the story doesn’t make full sense. This is about creating something joyful and something that inspires kids to make another book in the future.
If you have teenagers, then working together to edit is absolutely worth thinking about, but, again, this can become more of an argument than a pleasure. Sometimes we focus so much on fixing the book, that we lose the fun of the story. It’s hard as a parent not to get stressed or to want the book to be absolutely flawless, but letting go of a perfect-end-goal makes the process much more enjoyable.
Look For Places for Older Kids to Publish
The internet is full of opportunities for older kids to share their work. One of my favourites is Stone Soup for kids under thirteen where children can read and submit their own writing. Although putting too much focus on publishing can take away the joy of actually writing, sometimes it’s nice to have somewhere to send completed, fabulous work. For kids over thirteen, Wattpad is a great place to start getting feedback on writing projects.
Read it Together
My favourite part of writing a book with kids is the opportunity to read their work with them at the end. Seeing how excited they are by their words coming back to them is thrilling. Both for them, and for me. Years later, we can look back on their stories (my nearly nine year old loves a book he wrote with his sister—and me—when they were very little, silly as the story is).
I hope these tips help you and your kids make beautiful books together. I have a free course for young writers who are interested in trying some writing prompts, getting to know their characters and becoming super-star writers if your kids want to go a little further with their writing: www.writingblueprints.com/p/writing-course-ages-6-10/
Also, on my website, I have a free writing course for anyone who wants to hone their writing skills. Come and find me there: www.alicekuipers.com
By: Alice Kuipers
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book | by Alice Kuipers
Polly loves words. And she loves writing stories. So when a magic book appears on her doorstep that can make everything she writes happen in real life, Polly is certain all of her dreams are about to come true. Life is full of surprises and she soon learns that what you write and what you mean are not always the same thing! Funny and touching, this new chapter book series will entertain readers and inspire budding writers. Buy now at Chapters Indigo