Raising Summer Readers Tip #27: Encourage summer writing by authoring books (journals) that document growth or change occurring in your child’s life this summer.

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The kids’ “backyard project” journal — always out and ready for writing to occur.

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand — developing skills for one will help the other. Creating books about personal experiences is a great way to incorporate some writing into your kids’ summer. Personal experiences are meaningful to a child; they are also often “important” to a child, so writing about them is more likely to engender feelings of pride and a sense of ownership. And putting writing into a book format makes the writing authentic — real authors often share their writing through books, so bookmaking adds a realness to kids’ authoring experiences.

One terrific way to write about personal experiences is to take advantage of change already occurring in your child’s surroundings this summer. Are you starting any type of home improvement project in your house this summer, such as remodeling a kitchen or adding on to your house? Has a new baby pet joined your family? Are you raising butterflies? Building a garden or a chicken coop? Growing crystals? Planting seeds in a garden? Change for all of these things is visible, exciting to kids, and happens over weeks or months, so they provide a great opportunity for bookmaking that inspires ongoing/regular summer writing. And, like the “summer vacation book” (see Tip #21), this is another example of writing meaningful nonfiction sequential text, which is aligned with Common Core State Standards in K-5,

If your child wants to write a book that documents change/growth over time, help him/her to:

  • choose a format for the book, which could be a traditional lined notebook, a book that is handmade by the kids with blank paper and rings/staplers, or our family favorite — blank books from Barebooks.com.
  • decide on a writing schedule that fits with the rate in which change is occurring (daily, every couple of days, weekly)
  • record observations of change as it occurs, in sequential order
  • attach dates to observations/entries/book pages
  • include illustrations or photographs that are linked with each dated entry. Encourage labeling of either as is appropriate.
  • share updates of what has been written during parent-child real-alouds
  • focus on the content of what they write (their observations and thoughts), with less emphasis on grammar and punctuation.
  • add covers with title and illustration or photograph, just like a real book would have.
  • have easy access to materials for writing. If you want regular writing to occur, preferably put the materials close to where change is being observed!
  • dictate his/her observations if he/she is not yet writing conventionally!

In Our Family…  Book journals that document change/growth over time have been among our favorite outside-of-school writing projects, and they are projects we especially look forward to over the summer (when we can find more time to do them!). Last summer, the kids enjoyed making butterfly books that documented the growth of the monarch butterflies we were raising. This spring and summer (and hopefully not much past the summer!), they are all writing books that document our backyard renovation project. The older kids are doing their own writing, while my 5-year-old’s book is a combination of dictation and phonetic spelling. They are mostly preferring to add the real photographs of the progress, with some of their own illustrations and labeled diagrams.

To optimize their likelihood to write, their materials are on the dining room table, right in front of the windows overlooking the project. Books are open, writing tools are there — all they have to do is look out the window and sit down to write. If the materials weren’t out for them, I’m sure that writing would happen much less frequently! Access is key! (See Tip #7).

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My daughter’s “life cycle of a butterfly” book from last summer

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Two of my kiddos working on their life cycle books last summer

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