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March 24, 2015 Reusing Books: Endless Purposes for Discards By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    I love my class library, and I’m a book junkie, but every once in a while a book doesn’t make it back out of the book hospital. Spines on older books can eventually wear away, or something tragic happens and too many pages dislodge or become lost. I have a box of books that can’t be used any longer, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. As part of our recycling unit, students came up with ideas on how books could best be reused. Their ideas, and some of my own, brought new life to old pages, and I love the looks. What better way to decorate than with books!

    New Paper

    Perhaps one of the messier projects I decided to undertake in the classroom, but it was great fun and a great lesson on what happens to paper when it is recycled. We read The Magic School Bus Gets Recycled and then tried the process for ourselves. We collected newspaper and pages from very old books that were cracking and yellowed. I used a craft blender (meaning a blender I won’t mix drinks in later) to blend paper shreds, water, and white school glue. We dumped the pulp into a large tub and added more water. Students ran a screen (made from window screen and an old frame) in the water and pulled up a layer of pulp. After draining and drawing as much water out as we could, students added decorative colors and shreds from our scrap basket. Paper was dried on an aluminum sheet until it was firm.

    making paper pulp

     

    Notebooks

    The kids loved the new notebooks with old book covers. A spine had worn out of the book and interior pages were ripped. I pulled out the remaining pages and reinforced the spine with packing tape and paper. Lining the front and back with scrap paper was a fun addition, but not necessary. Then I took a notebook that fit inside the book cover and glued the front covers and back covers together, making sure the spine lined up with the spine of the book. Voila! A new notebook!

    how to make a new notebook

     

    Altered Books

    Altered books are popular in the art world. Artists take old books and paint, draw, or add work on top of the old pages. Some even cut sections or add new pockets, charms, and other bling. Students can get in the act too. I like using old board books to add stability to the project. Paint over the existing pages with a neutral color and then add your own elements on top. Our book illustrated lessons learned and pictures from other discarded books. There’s no end to what these altered books could show: a new book with creative writing, an illustrated journal, science diagrams, or music lyrics re-written as a book.

    altered book an altered book page

     

    Paper Flowers

    Paper flowers are a surprising hit with students. Make a bunch and add them to Mother’s Day wreaths, or add just one to a thank-you note. Create a paper flower and then add labels to show the parts for science class. Cut a circle from an old page and then start a spiral cut from the outside edge working in. Starting in the middle, wind the spiral around itself to make the flower bud. A dab of glue secures the end. I like having students glue the bud to a small circle of paper for stability, or adding hot glue to the bottom to hold it all together. Add some leaves and your flower is complete!

    making paper flowers paper flower

     

    Pinwheels

    Students love pinwheels. From Pinwheels for Peace in the fall, to spring festivals, pinwheels are always a hit. They make simple, happy décor for a classroom too. Cut a square piece from any book. Both sides of the paper will show, so consider the illustrations on the pages. Make cuts from each corner towards the center diagonally. Bend in every other point to the center and secure. Using a pushpin and attaching to a pencil eraser will make the pinwheel function, but gluing the pieces in place is just as attractive. For added decoration, dip the edges in glitter before folding. I attach mine to old pencils wrapped in washi tape.

    paper pinwheel

    The ideas for old books are endless. Take a look at paper crafts and let your imagination run wild. Just a few ideas our class brainstormed included:

    paper party hat

    •         Attach a bracket to make shelves out of big books

    •         Use old pictures for tracing

    •         Party hats

    •          Create your own book cutting pictures out of old ones

    •          Using the computer, print butterflies or other animals on the     pages 

    •          Paint with watercolor over the top of the pages

    •          Create cards to give to loved ones, especially book lovers

    •          Make ornaments

    •          Roll triangles into tight beads

    •          Laminate pages and cut to make bookmarks

    •          Drill a hole through the middle to form a lamp base

    •          Hang them like flying books from the ceiling with the pages open and cover “wings”

    •          Put interesting pages in the scrap paper for crafts

    paper beads

    Don’t toss those books that can no longer be read! Let students create their own ideas, then throw a book-reusing session so they can act on them. 

     

    What other creative uses for discarded books have you created in your classroom?

    paper cone wreath

     

    I love my class library, and I’m a book junkie, but every once in a while a book doesn’t make it back out of the book hospital. Spines on older books can eventually wear away, or something tragic happens and too many pages dislodge or become lost. I have a box of books that can’t be used any longer, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. As part of our recycling unit, students came up with ideas on how books could best be reused. Their ideas, and some of my own, brought new life to old pages, and I love the looks. What better way to decorate than with books!

    New Paper

    Perhaps one of the messier projects I decided to undertake in the classroom, but it was great fun and a great lesson on what happens to paper when it is recycled. We read The Magic School Bus Gets Recycled and then tried the process for ourselves. We collected newspaper and pages from very old books that were cracking and yellowed. I used a craft blender (meaning a blender I won’t mix drinks in later) to blend paper shreds, water, and white school glue. We dumped the pulp into a large tub and added more water. Students ran a screen (made from window screen and an old frame) in the water and pulled up a layer of pulp. After draining and drawing as much water out as we could, students added decorative colors and shreds from our scrap basket. Paper was dried on an aluminum sheet until it was firm.

    making paper pulp

     

    Notebooks

    The kids loved the new notebooks with old book covers. A spine had worn out of the book and interior pages were ripped. I pulled out the remaining pages and reinforced the spine with packing tape and paper. Lining the front and back with scrap paper was a fun addition, but not necessary. Then I took a notebook that fit inside the book cover and glued the front covers and back covers together, making sure the spine lined up with the spine of the book. Voila! A new notebook!

    how to make a new notebook

     

    Altered Books

    Altered books are popular in the art world. Artists take old books and paint, draw, or add work on top of the old pages. Some even cut sections or add new pockets, charms, and other bling. Students can get in the act too. I like using old board books to add stability to the project. Paint over the existing pages with a neutral color and then add your own elements on top. Our book illustrated lessons learned and pictures from other discarded books. There’s no end to what these altered books could show: a new book with creative writing, an illustrated journal, science diagrams, or music lyrics re-written as a book.

    altered book an altered book page

     

    Paper Flowers

    Paper flowers are a surprising hit with students. Make a bunch and add them to Mother’s Day wreaths, or add just one to a thank-you note. Create a paper flower and then add labels to show the parts for science class. Cut a circle from an old page and then start a spiral cut from the outside edge working in. Starting in the middle, wind the spiral around itself to make the flower bud. A dab of glue secures the end. I like having students glue the bud to a small circle of paper for stability, or adding hot glue to the bottom to hold it all together. Add some leaves and your flower is complete!

    making paper flowers paper flower

     

    Pinwheels

    Students love pinwheels. From Pinwheels for Peace in the fall, to spring festivals, pinwheels are always a hit. They make simple, happy décor for a classroom too. Cut a square piece from any book. Both sides of the paper will show, so consider the illustrations on the pages. Make cuts from each corner towards the center diagonally. Bend in every other point to the center and secure. Using a pushpin and attaching to a pencil eraser will make the pinwheel function, but gluing the pieces in place is just as attractive. For added decoration, dip the edges in glitter before folding. I attach mine to old pencils wrapped in washi tape.

    paper pinwheel

    The ideas for old books are endless. Take a look at paper crafts and let your imagination run wild. Just a few ideas our class brainstormed included:

    paper party hat

    •         Attach a bracket to make shelves out of big books

    •         Use old pictures for tracing

    •         Party hats

    •          Create your own book cutting pictures out of old ones

    •          Using the computer, print butterflies or other animals on the     pages 

    •          Paint with watercolor over the top of the pages

    •          Create cards to give to loved ones, especially book lovers

    •          Make ornaments

    •          Roll triangles into tight beads

    •          Laminate pages and cut to make bookmarks

    •          Drill a hole through the middle to form a lamp base

    •          Hang them like flying books from the ceiling with the pages open and cover “wings”

    •          Put interesting pages in the scrap paper for crafts

    paper beads

    Don’t toss those books that can no longer be read! Let students create their own ideas, then throw a book-reusing session so they can act on them. 

     

    What other creative uses for discarded books have you created in your classroom?

    paper cone wreath

     

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