4.3 : Blank Books
Blank Books are a way to offer children a way to play around with picture books themselves. Allowing children the freedom and the flexibility to try authorship on for size is a practice in celebrating trial and error, in learning through practice and play.
When I first began this process with children, they did not jump right into it. Children are nervous about writing - as I mentioned earlier in the workshop, many children already have anxieties about writing when they get to preschool. In my experience, children approach blank books in a variety of ways - and they will learn from each other as they gather around the mark-making table like a writer's club.
- Make some blank books. I use A4/8.5" x 11" paper, cut in half, then folded and stapled in the middle to create a 4 page (or, as the children realize later, an 8 page) book.
- Introduce Blank Books when you gather together, at a meeting or circle. Show them the books, and have some other books on hand, too. Remind them that it can just be pictures - or lines or shapes - whatever they want. Encourage them to add a piece of the story on every page so people can read it, just like reading books together at circle, turning the page to find out what happens next.
- Let them explore. Lots of books will only have a mark on the cover; Many children will say they don't know what they book is about. Dozens will go home without another word or sharing. This process of getting to know the material is a kind of tinkering: having the freedom to try something new on for size.
- Ask them to share with you. I like to ask children to read their book to me when they are finished - and this becomes more popular as children get more comfortable. This is where much of the documentation comes from, in my experience - the videos below were all taken when a child came up to me and asked to share their story - we find the quietest place we can and they read to me.
- Invite children to read their books to the class at the end of the day. Perhaps they want to share their story! Some might just want to show the pictures; some might change the story from what they shared with you earlier. There are slight changes in these "no writing" stories - but that is also an added layer of learning. Children understand that they have some flexibility as authors and illustrators when there is not a script. Many children practice mark-making on their pages, too, and use that as a kind of playful guide when they are reading their story to the teacher, to friends, or to their caregiver at the end of the day.
Blank books have been a staple in my classrooms around the world, with a wide spectrum of children, and there is never a dull moment. I hope you enjoy the stories below, and perhaps you can share yours in our storytelling community!