Make-Your-Own Book Kits for Budding Writers and Artists

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Do you remember being asked this question by every one of your parents’ friends and visiting relatives when you were a child?  It’s funny to think back about how sure I was of my answer back then: airline stewardess and astronaut—as if they had abundant similarities!  I guess they do both involve being up above the Earth’s surface…

At the age of 7, my daughter has outgrown her old, dreamy views of tutus and ballet shoes of the prima ballerinas and replaced them with an exuberant, though serious, reply of “Author/Illustrator.”   And while we all know she’s got a few years before she needs to legitimately narrow it down, she is diligently working on her career now, building her portfolio, and creating stories every single day.

I love to read them—what a window into her world!  While (thank goodness!) she is still at the age where she talks to me about her day, the things she writes in her stories provide insight that is beyond words.  Do you have a little writer on your hands?  A budding artist?  What ways have you found to encourage her passions?

In planning activities for our endless days of summer, I thought the Make-Your-Own book kits that are widely available at craft stores would be a perfect gift for my little author/illustrator.  Apparently, I was not alone; for her birthday instead of trendy clothes, she received three separate book kits.  “Boo-yah!” she shouted upon unwrapping each one!

The kits are fantastic, each in their own right.  One provides specially cut pages for creating a pop-up book, one is hardcover story book that includes stickers, story ideas, fine-tipped markers (how professional!), and instructions for a dedication page, and the third offers kids the opportunity to mail-in a completed manuscript and have the story professionally published.  A dream come true!

What my daughter is finding however, is that rather than inspiring her to write the next great American picture book, these fancy book templates give her writer’s block!  Despite suggestions about making rough drafts and reassurances that it’s OK to make mistakes, the kits create a bit of perfection-pressure that blocks her flow.  So far, we have three unwrapped kits and about 55 blank pages.

Because creating stories has become such a daily part of her life and an outlet that I don’t want her to be without, I casually put a four-inch stack of white, scrap office paper (used on one side, but blank on the other) on her bedroom table, along with some old, mismatched markers, and a half-chewed pencil.  With these well-worn, perfectly-good basics, she got her voice back!  In fact, the next morning, she invited me to attend the Grand Opening of her library and asked me to check out three of her featured titles.  Cardboard library card in hand, I borrowed five literary masterpieces and issued a note to myself: Next birthday, save money on fancy gifts.  A creative child needs only the basics to let her imagination flow.

There was one fancy gift I couldn’t resist, however.  I did pick up a brand new Thesaurus and added it last night to her bedroom writing nook, with a little inscription: May you always find the words to tell your story.

By Signe Whitson, a licensed social worker and Chief Operating Officer of the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute.  As a mom of two young daughters, she shares her knowledge with other parents for My Baby Clothes Boutique. Check out her blog about passive aggressive behavior for more of her great parenting advice.
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