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bookmaking and kids

I have been enjoying the conversations and writing on the list since the
fall. The recent topic of bookmaking and kids has inspired me to overcome my
on-line shyness and add my piece. I have been working on a summary of my
teaching bookmaking in the schools which I thought I'd share.

   After six years of teaching bookmaking in the schools, I found myself
drawing a blank when asked "Why make book?" by two separate interviewers from
local newspapers. Although the value of making books in the schools seems
obvious to me, and to the teachers and students with whom I work, I needed an
answer. I didn't come up with a very good one then and am trying to rectify
that now.
   I teach workshops in making simple book forms to both students and
teachers. The emphasis is on ease of construction, accessible materials, and
integrating the book into the curriculum. The majority of my presentations
revolve around the book in different cultures, focusing on six basic forms:
scrolls, accordions, palm leaf books from India and Southeast Asia, slat
books from ancient China, and sewn bindings in the Eastern and Western
traditions. Most of my sessions begin with a brief survey with examples from
my collection which include palm leaf books from Thaiiland and Bali, a piece
of papyrus from Egypt to represent scrolls, accordion books from China and
Mexico, a sewn binding from japan, and a large vellum page from an early 17th
century hymnal. I then make one or books with the group.
   When I began six years ago, I thought I would spend most of my time
teaching teachers. I figured it would be the easiest way to get the
information to the largest number as well as the most practical financially
for the schools. I found that many schools were most interested in bringing
in special guests for the students. I now work with students 60 to 70% of the
time. I meet with individual or combined classes of up to 50 students at a
time. Working with large groups has been very instructive. I am continually
revising and refining my directions to simplify the steps and make the
language more precise. I enjoy the challenge.
   The work with students has improved my teacher workshops in two ways. My
directions are much clearer and I am more aware of potential points of
difficulty. I also find that some teachers are concerned that their students
will not be capable of a particular project. When I can say, 50
kindergartners made this book in 1/2 hour or 50 sixth graders did this in 45
minutes, it gives validity to the statement, "They can do more than you
   I have made my program more and more school friendly with attention to
both scheduling and curriculum. When I began, I intended to follow my own
approach to bookmaking and never make a blank book. Although I encourage
teachers to follow my personal approach with their classes, I now always make
blank books with students for several reasons. One is that it is easy to
accomplish a blank book within a given time period and very difficult to do
so when the students are writing and illustrating as well. The pace of the
work varies greatly among students and makes a schedule difficult to
maintain. Another is that each teacher has his or her own expectations of
writing. For example, in my earlier days, I met a teacher who required that
her students ALWAYS write on lined paper and mine wasn't. We wasted a large
chunk of time finding rulers and making lines. (I have also learned to assume
more control. Today I say, there are no lines, do the best you can.) And last
of all, in terms of economics, it makes sense to pay me for what I know best,
the making of books, and let the teachers proceed from there. At the end of
the session, I show at least two examples of ways to use the books we have
made, one of a creative writing project and one of a way of presenting facts.
For example, when we make palm leaf books, I show a short sequence book with
one page each for Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and a Solar System book
with one page for each planet.
   Having described what I do, I arrive at the question: why make books in
the schools? There are many things to be learned from this kind of bookmaking
experience. The presentation on books from different cultures offers an
expanded view of what a book can be and gives students the opportunity to
appreciate the variety and beauty of the accomplishments of different
cultures. I discuss the reasons for choosing certain materials and methods of
construction. I was gratified to hear a student say, "Weren't they smart!"
after I described how the Chinese developed their method of sewn bindings to
use only one side of the paper. Since they used thin paper and ink, writing
on both sides would create an illegible book.
   Making books is a logical and sequential activity. If you are gluing
something small to something larger, the glue goes on the smaller piece. If
you are making a palm leaf book and have tied a bead to one end of the cord,
the pages must be strung on the cord before you tie a bead on the other end.
I try to ask questions as we work so that the students think about the logic
and the sequence.
   Making books requires attention and observation. If we've folded a four
page accordion and I say, "Hold it like a W", the student must really look at
that piece of paper. Is it a W or a M?
   The reason we make books is to put something in them. The book is the
form, the vessel, for the content. It is in this aspect that the
possibilities for the book in the curriculum are endless. They can be used
for writing and illustrating stories, displaying research, and remembering
facts. How about a triangle book with information about triangles for
geometry? A slat book of multiplication tables? A fold-out accordion book of
the human body?  A venetian blind accordion book that unfolds like flowing
lava about volcanoes? A one sheet eight-page booklet of a Greek myth in comic
book format?
   Making books serves a variety of learning styles and brings more
creativity into the learning process. There are additional advantages.
Accordion books open to show all the pages at once and are great for
displays. Palm leaf and slat books have separate pages and are good for
learning sequence and organizing information. All books allow for a range of
abilities. They can highlight and improve writing, dawing, and design skills.

   Last but not least, in fact best of all, making books is fun! When I make
books with a class, the students can't wait to write in their books. After
students make one book, they want to make another. What are we going to put
in this one? And on and on and on.The process is contagious. I began with
sessions in Making Multicultural Books, asses Books for Math and Science,
Books that Move and Pop, and am currently working on the Book in American
History. Just like me, students will write more, draw more, and think more.

I'm planning more writing on the topic, in particular making books with my
own kids and parent and child workshops, so you may be hearing more from me.
I thought I'd also put in a plug for a book I wrote for Scholastic
Professional Books called MULTICULTURAL BOOKS TO MAKE AND SHARE, sixteen
projects geared for grades 1-6.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
Box 852, Newburyport, MA 01950

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