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.

The Process

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!