These two tips, along with Tip #50, should have come much earlier in the summer, so I apologize for their late arrival. Authoring their own books can be such a great summer writing experience because, unlike books that are written during the school year, kids are not limited by time or parameters of a given assignment. During the summer, kids have the freedom to write whatever type of text they want, about whatver topic, for whatever audeince, on whatever medium, of whatever length, etc. They have the opportunity to truly become real authors.
If your kids have some down time in the last few days of summer, perhaps you can inspire them to write a book! They can make up their own fictional story, put an oral story into written book format, use story starters (see Tip #48) as an entry point to book writing, convert any written story (see Tip #49) into book format, write a nonfiction book about any topic that interests them, or write a book about a specific summer experience. These next two tips describe a couple more fun options that might interest your kids:
Tip #51. Encourage kids to write “how-to” books based on their own summer activities and experiences.
Writing how-to books can be so motivating for kids because they serve a specific purpose that is meaningful and real — to teach someone else how to do something that is interesting or important to the child/author. Children are more invested in writing how-to books when they actually have participated in the step-based activity, have developed a some expertise, and want to share their knowledge with others. For example, when a child makes a new craft, helps to bake a new type of cookie, conducts a neat science experiment, creates a new game (see tip #32), or successfully pulls off a magic trick.
Remember, this type of nonfiction text typically includes a materials/ingredients section, which is followed by a description of the steps (often with numbers, bullets, or connecting words such as “first”, “next”, and “then”). These books also often contain present tense verbs, photographs or labeled diagrams, and tips/reminders for successfully completing the activity. Try to provide your child with the opportunity to share his/her how-to book with an audience who is eager to read it and try out the activity for him/herself!
Tip #52. Encourage kids to use picture books as inspirations for writing their own books.
It can be particularly fun for kids to write their own books based on specific aspects of published picture books — especially books that they find particularly appealing and that have distinct features that are easily borrowable for their own writing. There are a variety of ways that kids can use picture books as a stimulus to author their own books. A few include:
- Borrowing story elements, such as writing a story with the same characters, the same setting, and/or the same problem/conflict.
- Writing a sequel or a prequel to a picture book
- Writing a different story that conveys the same message or theme as a particular picture book
- Writing a picture book that borrows a standout feature from the published book — such as text written in rhyming couplets, use of hooks and other interactive elements to facilitate engagement, and repeated refrains.
- Writing a different version of the story with a new ending, a different way to solve the problem, or changing the setting or a key character. Writing “fractured fairy tales” (see tip #49) — where kids write their own version of a well-known story (e.g., the Cinderella story) is an example of this.
After reading aloud books that might inspire some writing, try to have some discussion about special features of the book (or books, if multiple books were read, such as several books by the same author). Brainstorm together ideas that kids might borrow for their own writing. While good teachers often use picture books as mentor texts for kids’ writing, summer writing needs to be fun — so help your kids choose books with especially fun features! Here are 3 suggestions that allow for a ton of fun and creativity:
Read aloud a bunch of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books (which are fun for all grades and reading levels). Talk about similarities that these books share, such as their comic book style, that the stories are all told through dialogue bubbles, they all contain themes related to friendship, and Elephant’s and Piggie’s persistent personality traits. Then, kids can write their own Elephant and Piggie book!
- Read aloud a couple books by Herve Tullet, such as Press Here; Help! We Need a Title!; The Book With a Hole; and coming this September — Mix It Up!
Tulle’s distinct style is simple yet powerful. He talks directly to his readers and energizes them to become active participants, getting them to do something as a result of reading the text. Clever and creative, Tulle’s books set the stage for kids to apply the same creative thinking to their own writing. I LOVE these books for inspiring some fun summer writing!
- Read aloud the super clever book Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett. In this book, the character Alex receives a Little Golden Book-like book for his birthday called Birthday Bunny, which he finds uninteresting and too young for him. So he improves the book by re-naming it and transforming the story, changing the text and embellishing the pictures with his pencil. It’s hilarious, and it celebrates kids as storytellers and storywriters. Kids can read this and talk about their own ideas for changing Birthday Bunny into a more interesting story. Better yet, click here and kids can actually download and print their own copy of Birthday Bunny (the book that fictional character Alex turned into Battle Bunny) and then transform it however they like (For example, they can write “Baseball Bunny” or “Mad Scientist Bunny’). Just as Alex did in the book, kids should be encouraged to change the title, modify the text, and embellish the pictures. What a great summer writing project!
Keep in mind that the authenticity of the actual “book” can make a big difference in kids’ motivation to write, engagement in the bookmaking activity, and in their sense of pride and ownership of their writing. Help them use a “real book” format for their books, and get their input as to what they think that format should be. See Tip #50 for ideas of homemade blank books or see Tip #11 if you’re interested in purchasing some high–quality blank book materials.