Wednesday, April 08, 2009

telling stories

One of Tsia's teachers is an actor who, one morning a week, works with the kids on their presentation skills. By this I mean that they have Show and Tell, practice introducing themselves and greeting adults, and focus on telling stories and doing little performances.

I wanted to build on what Tsia is learning by helping to work on her narrative skills, so we've been making little books together in our spare time. These aren't elaborate projects, by any means. I make every effort to rein in my designer instincts when we make our books because I want them to be spontaneous and let us concentrate on telling a story rather than getting all fancy in the making of the physical book itself. As she grows older and develops a longer attention span maybe we'll have the opportunity to spend more time on the production and creation of the book. But for now we simply keep a stack of typing paper cut into quarter sheets, and we grab them along with the crayons whenever the mood strikes us.

We've been using two different approaches to our books: For the first one, Tsia dictates and I write. Then she illustrates the page before we progress to the next one. This works pretty well, but I've been noticing that she continues to develop and narrate the story as she's illustrating, so by the time we get to the next page we've somehow missed important elements of the story along the way. I'm finding ways to fill in a bit, but I was hoping to take straight dictation and it feels a little like cheating when I start to help with continuity. Our most recent book felt, Todd told me, like some sort of surrealist tale when actually there was a certain continuity in the story that got lost during its inscription.

The second approach we've tried is a fill-in-the-blank style of narrative, which I've learned works really well when I'm keeping a group of young children entertained at her school. If I tell part of the story and have them fill in missing words, their attention is terrific! The other day we collaborated on a rather long-winded tale about a duck named Duck who put on his swimsuit and went to the park to meet his friend for a picnic. However, as far as the book-writing project goes, this approach lasts for a maximum of two pages before Tsia really gets going and takes off on her own, leaving my sorry narratives behind. So I think she's too old for this approach. But it might work well with younger children who need a little help developing a story.

We use colored card stock for the covers of our simple books, and we've tried several different binding techniques from this book to assemble our finished pages. Most of the time we simply staple or use Japanese bookbinding technique. We haven't really settled on a favorite method yet, and I still want to play around with some of the fancier techniques when she gets older.

Tsia always write our names on the cover--since I guess we're the authors of the book.

I'm excited to see where she'll take this activity as she grows older, and it's rewarding to have a tangible little book at the end of our story-writing sessions. They're a lot of fun to read, and I think they'll be even more fun to look back on over the years. I'm making sure to date them for future reference. Eventually she may have a full library of books to review, from every age of her childhood.


  1. What a wonderful project! There's something very sweet, to me, about parent-child collaborations like this. She's a lucky little gal.

    And I love your handwriting!

  2. Oooo, I am thinking there will be quite a few books in our future. Thanks for the ideas - and for the reminder to keep it simple : )

  3. I am all excited about the idea of tiny children learning to MAKE INTRODUCTIONS!! I have teenagers and none of their friends know how to do that - and while mine know how, they refuse. :o)

    WV: kabilli. It's Swahili for... ice cream, I'm gonna say.

  4. Everything you write about on your blog(s) just inspires me so much!! Thank you.

  5. Precious things indeed.

  6. So very precious and PRICELESS!

  7. We still have some of my "books" from when I was a kiddo. They are wonderful fun. Love her illustrations, too.

  8. =Tamar3:07 AM

    Maybe you could use a tape recorder to catch the full narrative, while you're making the booklet.