Yesterday, I made my first summer purchase for the library--365 THINGS TO MAKE AND DO. This is not a new book, but it is new to me and will be new to the students. Cookbooks and Craft books are quite popular in our school library. And I think they are critical pieces to a good collection. I think "how to" reading is important, especially as our kids grow as readers. Knowing how to read this type of writing as well as reading the visuals that go along with it, goes a long way toward the visual literacy skills we want for kids. I worry that sometimes, when we are talking about skills like visual literacy, we automatically think about technology tools. But I think our young children can begin to understand visuals in ways that make sense for them. One way is through books like this.
This book is definitely visually appealing. It is a large book --it has to be in order to fit 365 ideas in it! This is not really 365 different ideas. The book is divided into about 125 projects. Each project idea is shared on a two-page spread. For example, one page deals with "Pretty Masks". The page shares the steps to make the mask in a step-by-step column. Then a variety of samples are shared. (Each of these counts as one of the 365 things in the book.).
I love creation and I think kids do too. My daughter recently started her own blog called FUN THINGS TO MAKE. (Her review of the book is here.) When she has free time, making things is often her activity of choice. And she makes things with a variety of tools. She has a cabinet full of "stuff" and the process of creativity is fun to watch, as a mom. The thing is, she creates with pipe cleaners with the same thoughtfulness that she uses when creating with tools of technology. I love to watch her when we shop at the Craft Store--she is shopping for possibilities, more than for things. Looking around to see what is possible. As much as I think it is so important that our kids be creators of information and creators with tools of technology, I also think it is important that they create lots of things with lots of stuff. I have been thinking about this a lot since spending time on children author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal's site. Her home page says, "Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a person who likes to make things." I so love this. A clip that really got me thinking about creation was her film called "17 Things I Made". Watch it if you have time. For Amy, it seems that she too likes creating a variety of things.
(And did I mention that Amy Krouse Rosenthal will be a speaker at our Dublin Literacy Conference this year (February 2011) as well as our school's author visit!!!!!)
When I think about the big 21st Century skills, creation is key. I worry about creation being seen as fluff and that our kids are not having time to create and enjoy the process of creation in school.
I am not usually drawn to books like this--a craft that kids make where the child's product looks like the example. But I see this book as an invitation to kids who love to create. Because each project idea has lots of samples and ways to use the idea, I feel like it just gives kids lots of new ideas for creation. A child might go to the masks page, figure out how to make the basic mask, look at the ideas and try a mask that is different from those shown. Or a child may try one of these exactly as-is to learn the technique (painted papers) and then use the technique in a future project. Just like writers might try new things out that they see other writers use, I think creators of anything do this same thing. I love this as a great invitation for kids--one that shouts out, "Look What is Possible! Give it a Try!". I am trying to figure out how to make this kind of creation a more standard part of the library--having not only the technology tools to create with but also tools like these--paint, paper, etc. for kids to create ways to share learning and information. Such an important piece to children's whole development.