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Re: bookbinding and kids

The topic of bookbinding and kids couldn't have come at a better time.  I
just returned from a teaching marathon.  Over several weeks I worked with
first graders making pocket books (with talking puppets and story folders for
the pockets), with 4th graders making pop-up books about the weather (with
pop-up cyclones, clouds and windows with changing weather outside), with 5th
graders making tunnel books about space and about "long ago and far away",
with high school students making single sheet structures and a class called
"Stump the Professor" (they came up with a structure and then we figured out
the patterns and formulas to make a pop-up model of it--a coke can, the
world, a viking ship, the Hubell space telescope).  I also gave a
before-school workshop for teachers to show how they could use simple book
structures to enhance the learning process.

Since I generally work alone in the studio it's a treat to take a break and,
of course, the money is nice too.  But the biggest reward is to see the books
that the kids create.  At every level they are imaginative, bursting with
enthusiasm, and a refreshing take on life.

Books are the great equalizer in schools.  What ever interests a kid can be
the starting point of great a book.  I've seen kids make books about every
kind of sport, music, outer space, monsters, science, travel, family life,
imaginary places, pheasant hunting (sigh), and last week, a 4th grader made a
very touching pop-up book about his grandmother's recent funeral.  Who would
have thought!

The books are not only interesting structurally and visually, but the texts
are great too.  One of the 5th graders was making a tunnel book about a
haunted house.  His entire story was: "No one would go near the house because
it was haunted."  I said, "Tell me more.  Tell me specifically why people are
afraid to go near the house."  Eventually he blurted out, "The ghost of Old
Man Whithers will smash you to little bits and all of your friends will
mistake you for a pile of macaroni and cheese."  It was the start of a
wonderfully descriptive story that complimented his visually exciting book.

Book making in schools is important for two reasons.  First,  If you can get
a student to write information down, they are more apt to remember it.
 Second, If you can get a student started on a book, they want to fill it and
they will go out looking for information and material to complete it.  An
interesting and unexpected book structure is a great way to launch a quest
for learning.

On the drive home today I was thinking how tired I was, how much energy the
program demanded and how much I begrudged the time away from the studio.
Maybe it's time, I thought, to pass on future programs.  When I got home
there was a large envelope stuffed with handmade cards from the first
graders.  The first one read:  "Dear Mr. Hutchins, I had a great time making
books with you.  It was the best time of my life.  Love, Nicholas"  OK, maybe
I'll do it again next year.  Ed

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