Books, Kids and Paying it Forward

While I am on the subject of books let me tell you about making them. I took a class this past summer where I learned to make four different types of books and now I am crazy for bookmaking.

The class was one of those adult summer mini-classes that are offered by most universities or tech schools to fulfill their outreach requirement to the local community. They are reasonably priced, the teachers have good credentials and they usually aren’t a long-term committment. No grades just pure learning. The class I took was Book-making, part of the Art Enrichment for Adults program at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. It met on five Tuesdays from 6:00 – 8:30pm and I loved it. I made a Star book, a Coptic Stitch book, a folded book and a tied-binding book.

My first books

My first books

Once the class was over I couldn’t leave it behind. I wanted to make more books. I did make more books. Then one day on Facebook a friend who is a teacher at a small parochial school was talking about her third and fourth graders. They were getting excited about writing and some of them wanted to start a story club. I popped in and asked if she thought they might want to learn how to make books to go around their stories?  Three emails and one meeting later, I was scheduled to meet with eighteen 8 -10 year olds once a week for 6 weeks and teach them to make a tied-binding book (that’s the 4th one in the above picture).  This was the first time I would be teaching anyone how to make a book  but not my first time in a classroom. My first ever real job was art teacher in a Jr/Sr high school. And even though that was 40 years ago, I went in unafraid, completely forgetting about the high energy generated at this age. The kids were enthusiastic, had a million questions and were excited to get started. After contacting my teacher from the summer book class for some tips, she volunteered to do a guest appearance to teach them how to paint their cover paper. Great! She had paint and paper I didn’t have to find or buy. A local frame shop donated matte board, a parent donated paper for the book pages and I found enough yarn and ribbon in my leftovers for ties. Schools have little or no money for extras and little private schools are really pinched for funds.

Painting the cover paper

Painting the cover paper

By my third meeting with the class, I could already identify the shy ones, the overachievers, the perfectionists and the goofballs. I learned those kid’s names first, the others were just faces. To be fair to me and the kids, I only saw them once a week for about 4o minutes and those were busy minutes and names got lost. At the end I think I knew most of them.

Four of the kids books

Four of the kids books

So how did it turn out? Not everyone paid attention to directions (some things never change). Their glue sticks varied in stickiness so attaching the covers to the boards went from perfectly stuck to “Mrs. Heuer, help!” I rode to the rescue but in some cases I patched holes and restuck corners after everyone went to their next class. I learned that this age group doesn’t know how to tie knots (huh?) so having five parent volunteers available  when we got to tieing in the pages was a life-saver.  We started with 18 kids and finished with 17 books. Only because a playground accident  (a head-on collision,  a knocked out tooth) sent one of my students to emergency dental care. Her classmates were quick to inform me that it was a “permanent” tooth.

Our last class was on Nov 12. This past Friday I went back to pick up some papers and was greeted with this:

Thank you note

Thank you note

Aw guys, you made me smile, made me so happy to teach again and pay it forward.

The pumpkin refers to the paper pumpkins I made them for Halloween, the teacher sacrificed hers for the thank you note.

Side note: I’m still making books and now I have some for sale on ETSY,  just click on the link in the right column.

4 thoughts on “Books, Kids and Paying it Forward

  1. Fun learning experience for the kids– and you! I also briefly tried teaching 40 + yrs ago. Spanish for 7th graders in Biloxi Missippi. What a culture shock after leaving UW-Madison. Not ready yet to return to a room full of wiggly kids.

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