Class: Three- and 4-year-olds at Trinity Church Day School in Long Green, Maryland

Teacher: Jane Hall

How the book came to be: While on a field trip at a pumpkin farm, Hall took photos of the children. Back at school, she asked them to tell her what they did first, second, and third. She wrote down what children dictated, typed up the comments, and invited children to glue them onto sheets of construction paper along with the corresponding photos. For a finale, she laminated the pages and put the book together with spiral binding.

Reaction from children: "That book got the most use of any of the ones we've made," Hall says.

Follow-up tips: "It's nice to have the book to show any children who missed the field trip," she says. Another idea is to use the book the following year to let children in the new class know what they can expect to see on the trip.


Class: K-1 children at Walker Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas

Teacher: Sheila Rowden

How the book came to be: Adapting the format of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, the class made a book during a unit on sea life. It started out with the words "Striped octopus, striped octopus, what do you see?" and one child's watercolor painting of a striped octopus, and the story continued from there.

Each child came up with and then painted his or her own answer to the question "What do you see?" and Rowden typed up the responses. They ranged from "I see a purple seahorse looking at me" to "I see a red jellyfish looking at me." The last page of the book read, "I see water in the sea, sea, sea."

For the book's pages, Rowden chose good-quality art paper (perfect for the watercolor drawings); for the cover, construction paper. She put the whole book together using spiral binding.

Selected responses from children: Rowden reports that Lacy said about the book, "I like learning about the ocean." Levi said, "I can read my page and Matthew's page." Rachel said, "I learned to be a helper-teacher when I helped Cody work on his page."

Tip for teachers: While your class is making a book, hang the pages up in the classroom or hallway. Rowden's children enjoy using a pointer and, as they call it, "reading the wall." "This is fun and allows them to be active readers," she says.

Class: Pre-kindergartners at Rhodes Elementary School in River Grove, Illinois


Teachers: Janet Lange and Marilyn Oxby

How the books came to be: About one week before each child's birthday, Lange and Oxby send home a bag that contains a book with a birthday theme, a three- to five-page blank book, and instructions for parents.

The instructions suggest that parents read the book with their child, work together to turn the blank pages into a book showing what the child enjoys about birthdays, and return the book to school before the child's birthday. On the big day, the child shares the book with the class and then takes it home as a keepsake.

Reaction from children and parents: "The kids really take pride in 'reading' their books to their classmates," Oxby says, and the project is great for family involvement."

Prep tip: Oxby prepares all the materials at the beginning of the year. "Then all I have to do is keep an eye on the birthday list and send home a birthday book bag when appropriate," she says.


Class: Three- to 5-year-olds in the special education class at Madison Elementary School in Lombard, Illinois

Teacher: Marsha Budlong

How the book came to be: During a unit on the five senses, Budlong took Polaroid photos of children at play. Then, together, they used the class computer to write a caption for each photo.

After that, they mounted the photos and captions (along with pictures of eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and hands) on 5-by-8 index cards. Budlong laminated them and assembled the pages with 1-inch binder rings. When the book was finished, it went home with a child in a big envelope. Families took turns looking through the book and adding comments. Then everyone had seen it, the book joined the class library and became favorite.

Reaction from families: Class books are great for keeping parents abreast of what their child is learning. They also enjoy the opportunity see the other children in their child's class -- which helps later then families meet one another at support-group meetings.

The books have been a big help to children too. Just recently, a boy was looking at a book and spontaneously called out while pointing to a photo: "Nicole, Nicole. Come here, come here!" prior to that, the child had only repeated what he heard other People say. Says Budlong: "That was a big day in our class."