If only I could find a way . . .
. . . I would be working in classrooms beside teachers helping them publish student and classroom books. With the help of a digital camera and a flatbed scanner we would take photographs from home or school, student drawings, projects, or art sculptures and capture them as digital files ready to insert into books. These images can become the springboard that inspires the students to write. I would encourage them to talk about themselves and their creations, and would help young children turn their spoken words into text. Once pictures and text are in place it is a matter of deciding when to print out the students' work--I recommend printing a rough draft right away, especially the first time, so they will see that it is "real," and the anticipation of seeing their work published into an attractive book can provide the motivation to revise and edit their work. Editing can take place as the text is written, before the work is published, a few days later, or even a couple of weeks later or longer. Editing is one of the greatest advantages of the computer generation--you can always make another change to make it better and print it again. This is not an option with the typical assembled books that are created in the classroom without re-creating them from scratch.
Very young students can improve reading skills by reading their own writing when given sufficient guidance during the writing process. Students will have pride in what they have written and will remember words they didn't know before they wrote them if they are fully involved in the writing process. They will read it because it is their own. The very young students can begin by writing about what comes naturally--writing about themselves, their families, friends, and pets.
Classroom activities can easily be made into books. The first step is to take lots of pictures at all the stages of the project or activity. Then, with the children viewing the computer screen (one child at a time, in small groups, or as a whole class with the use of an LCD projector), they could tell what they did in each of the pictures, put them in the proper sequence and create their book for printing with MS Publisher or through an online Print On Demand (POD) printer.
I would like to participate on class field trips and take lots of pictures, or help teachers, assistants and/or students take the pictures. Then I would help them to write books illustrated with the photographs. The above book was created in the spring of 2007 with the kindergarten class in my school. The students were shown pictures that were taken on the field trip, and their teacher wrote down what the students said. Using their statements, and adding a few of my own for transition as well as information that supplemented the educational objectives of the trip, I arranged the book and had it printed online within two weeks of the trip. The children were delighted as they read the published book and recognized the sentences they had contributed. Many of their parents and staff members are ordering copies of the book as a keepsake of the field trip.
The same process could also be used to utilize other forms of technology such as PowerPoint presentations, Web pages, or articles for the school or local newspapers. Two or three different class events could be written up to make a class newsletter for the students to take home to their parents. As students learn technology skills they will gradually do more of the work at the computer for themselves.
I am especially fond of student book-making because a book can go anywhere. My teaching and media center experience has been in the low-income areas of South Carolina where computers are still considered a luxury in most homes. Parents don't have to own a computer to look at their child's book. They also don't have to worry about a printed book's format becoming obsolete--as is already happening with floppy disks, and will also happen eventually to CDs. When students carry their own books home they will be ready to read them to anyone who will listen. Students' books can be printed in multiple copies for sharing and they can be made to look as nice as books that are purchased in a store. And many years from now, their children and grandchildren might still read them without having to worry about having to find special equipment that has become obsolete.