Using Photo Books To Get Kids Reading and Writing

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photo bookPhoto books — you know, those memory books that you spent hours making after vacations, baby showers, and birthdays, only to have them sit untouched on the top shelf of your bookcase. It doesn’t have to be that way! Not only can you create photo books that your children will look through over and over again, but you can turn the whole process into a learning activity that will engage even the most hesitant readers and writers.

Here are five fun ways to use your favorite online photo book creator to boost reading and writing:

Alphabet Book

We’ve all seen those specialty alphabet books in bookstores centered around a certain theme. I’m sure there’s one for everything you can imagine (Did you know there is a Dallas Cowboys ABC book?). Well, why not make your own? The kids can think of people, places, or things that begin with each letter and then go on a scavenger hunt to photograph everything. Bonus points if you’re able to get them in the pictures interacting with the objects — they’ll love the final product even more because they’re in it!

Books about Special Events

Kids (and adults!) love thinking back to fun vacations and special events they enjoyed with their family and friends. To make this different from your usual vacation photo book, have your child select a handful of their favorite pictures, write a sentence or two about each one, and then help design the book. In lieu of a vacation, use a special event such as a piano recital, soccer tournament, or field day. Also, remember that kids often think of “routine” events as being special! One of my students’ favorite summer projects was when they took pictures of interesting things at the swimming pool and then came back to class and wrote a sentence about each one. 

Books about Routines

The opposite of a special event book is a book about routines. These photo books depict the different steps your child takes to do something — getting ready for school or bed, for example. Creating and rereading these books can help children have ownership in their routines and reinforce the steps. To create a book about a routine, first have your child write down (or dictate to you) each step. Make sure they are detailed enough so that if you need to refer to the book in real-time (for example, during a particularly difficult bedtime), there isn’t any room for confusion (e.g., instead of Next, I brush my teeth, you can write Next, I put toothpaste on my toothbrush and brush my teeth.). 

Once you have a sequence that everyone is happy with, take pictures of your child acting out each step of the routine and add the corresponding words to each page. If your child has difficulty following a particular routine (e.g., getting ready for bed), it could help to read the book together before you get started each time.

Family Books

These are one of my favorites, especially when you live far from extended family. Soon after my son was born, I asked his grandparents, uncles, and other close relatives what they wanted to say to him. Then, I made a page for each family member with their picture, a map showing the state or town in which they lived, and their message. The messages ranged from a simple, “I can’t wait to watch Disney movies with you when you come visit me in New Jersey!,” to more complex sentiments about how lucky they were to have a new family member. We started reading this book to our little guy when he was just a baby so that he would get to know the faces of family members who he wasn’t able to see everyday.  

How-to Books

These are popular projects in school, but there’s no reason why you can’t make your own how-to book at home! Have your child choose something they love to eat that is easy to make (e.g., ants on a log). Then, have them write down each step they need to follow. Once they’ve finished, have them read and complete each step while you take a picture (this is also a great chance for them to see if they skipped a step or if one wasn’t specific enough). Once they receive the completed book with the pictures and corresponding steps, they can read and follow the instructions with friends and family and make their treat again and again!

Your child will love reading these books that you have worked on together!  What themed photo books have you made?

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