Making Class Books in Kindergarten:
Tips on celebrating writing and art
by Nellie Edge

Student-made class books are models of children’s picture books . Authors and illustrators can be clearly identified on the front cover, with credits noted for adaptation and reproduction (e.g., illustrated by Mrs. Leber’s Kindergarten class, and adapted from I Can Read Colors by Nellie Edge).

Children have artistic ownership of their Big Books . Class-made Big Books are a great way to celebrate children’s art — even the covers can be authentic children’s art — representing each child’s original way of putting together ideas (i.e., every cat, person, or pumpkin will be uniquely different, rather than colored from someone else’s pattern).

Look for opportunities to develop voracious vocabulary learners. Acknowledge the children as “innovators” on a text or artists who use “vibrant colors”. Some may be prolific writers and detailed illustrators. They can become knowledgeable about rhymes, alliteration, similes, antonyms and homonyms. Commend them as being persistent, flexible, diligent and resourceful. Children need to know about copyright and whether they are adapting or reproducing from a particular song, poem or literature book. They love learning new words.

Use familiar songs and rhymes as patterns for children to make language “their own.”  Invite your students to hang their ideas, in spoken phrases on the literacy structures of Read and Sing Big Books: Down By the Bay, Down on Grandpa’s Farm, Oh, A-Hunting We Will Go, I’ve Got a Cat, The Opposite Song, Mary Wore Her Red Dress and The More We Get Together all are “pattern songs”.  Build adaptations, substituting nouns for nouns, adjectives for adjectives and verbs for verbs. Dependable sentence patterns give children a frame or structure to work within while creating something new — their own new verses, illustrated and bound in a book for others to read and sing.

Signing songs and sharing a book of illustrated lyrics makes a memorable performance. Goodnight Irene (Raffi’s version), This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie, What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss, and See Me Beautiful by Red Gammet make wonderful Big Books. Children love doing parent performances signing songs and then proudly sharing their illustrated book. (See the Magic of Signing Songs video.) Always credit and acknowledge the author (one copy of a song or poem can be legally copied for classroom use without requesting permission).

Encourage children to write nonfiction books to culminate their science exploration. Highly motivated learners might choose to do an individual scientific investigation or probe into a topic of interest — stars, snakes, spiders.  Invite the children to notice and analyze various text features of nonfiction or science books. After children have researched a topic they can summarize their new learning through labeled diagrams, descriptive sentences, and using the “text features” they have noticed in their trade books.  An 11" x 17" piece of paper can be folded in half into a book providing a simple format to highlight key concepts learned.

Make a table of contents page. With some pattern books, a table of contents (perhaps a standard form that you’ve developed), clearly identifies who the author and/or illustrator for each page is and gives the children practice reading classmate’s names. A photo of each child can be included on the table of contents page next to their name or on each child’s page. (Copied sets of individual student photos like the kind used for “Math Their Way” graphing are helpful to keep on hand for this purpose.) Children can draw a small picture of themselves and glue these pictures next to their name as an illustrated table of contents.

Introduce children to a variety of book organizing techniques. Children can draw directly onto blank Big Book pages or student art can be cut out and glued onto the pages. Book pages can be color-coordinated. Mounting children’s art on contrasting color paper produces an aesthetically pleasing book. Children can make borders for their big books. We have seen child-illustrated, 2-inch strips of paper that are copied and reused on each page. This detailed border is a technique used in some children’s literature books. Book pages can be a collage of several children’s images, or each child can illustrate a separate page.

Acknowledge individual authors. Sometimes a child who loves to draw and write may make his or her own reproduction or adaptation of a book in its entirety. It is special to acknowledge this child with an “About the Author and Illustrator” page and a student photo. Again, use the features of quality picture books as your model.

Notice layout and information features of the fine children’s books: publishing company, city and state, date of publication, author, illustration information and dedication. Use the bookmaking project as a vehicle for teaching content about how books are put together.  

Include information about the medium used to produce the book. (e.g., This book was done in watercolor and the animals have been outlined with black marking pen.) These books often go home to be shared with family and are displayed for viewing in a library. This information provides the answer to, “I wonder how they made this?”

Include an informative parent letter about how the book was made and invite parents to write comments. The parent information letter can be included on the inside front cover or back of the book. Parent response sheets can be a set of sticky notes stapled to the inside book cover or a few sheets of notebook paper stapled onto the back page. Children enjoy taking these books home to share. Teachers also leave them displayed during “Parent Evenings” and encourage responses. Children love to hear parent comments about their art and creative ideas.

Dedication pages honor special people. Children may dedicate their book to a principal, student teacher, or a favorite volunteer. A photo of that person included on the dedication page adds a personal touch.

Books make thoughtful literacy gifts for special class friends. Consider making a color copy of the book for your class and giving the original as a gift to the person to whom it is dedicated.  Volunteers, student teachers and guests will appreciate this gift of literacy.

Scan the pages of a book onto a computer and print out several copies. Consider donating one to the school library, a homeless shelter, or a local preschool.

“The End” is satisfying for children to write and read at the conclusion of their book. “The End” page may include illustrations or borders.

Be realistic about how much time you have to include “finishing touches”. The important thing is for children to see themselves as authors and illustrators from the first day of school. Children need to see their lives and ideas in print and their personal art being valued. Give them the validation of experiencing “My life is worth writing, reading and singing about.”  – Nellie Edge