Book Arts: A Creative Means to Promote Learning

Nancy Mazza, a retired art educator, has long been interested in book forms and bookmaking. She has turned this passion into an outreach program, helping students make a “literacy connection” through the creation of books. Becky Schuler, a reading specialist in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, has worked with Nancy to incorporate bookmaking into her curriculum as a way of reaching reluctant readers and writers. In this article, Nancy and Becky provide an overview of the bookmaking process and how it can strengthen students’ literacy skills.

In the past five years we have taught bookmaking to children and adults. Many of the book forms were specifically designed to promote literacy in the Kaukauna, Area School District. Together, Becky and I have used bookmaking as a means to help students increase their learning power. In making their own books and “publishing” their own writings and artwork, students developed language and cognitive skills. We found that they enjoyed the hands-on experience and therefore remembered the correlating abstract information that was incorporated into their books. Students connected what they learned with the physical object they had made. This enabled them to express themselves in a visual way and to explore their creativity at the same time.

Making and illustrating books uses three powerful means of learning and creative expression: the linguistic, the visual, and the physical act of creating. When writing a book that is based on facts collected for a specific project, students must organize and prioritize the information they have collected and learn to sequence the pages properly. Lessons are reinforced by memory of the physical act of writing and bookmaking. It has been our experience that students are motivated to write in the books that they make themselves, especially when the book form is unconventional and unique.

So successful has the bookmaking process been for us that we have developed and taught several workshops designed specifically to enable teachers to use the book arts across the curriculum. It has been a great pleasure to see these book forms used in the regular classroom for a variety of projects and subjects. By teaching teachers we have been able to reach many more students.

Bookmaking takes surprisingly few tools. Scissors, glue, and paper are all that is needed for most books, but yarn, beads, envelopes, bone folders, twine, and needles make for so many more possibilities! Inexpensive substitutions for tools can be as simple as using a chip of Formica as a bone folder, a tool used in paper crafts. Standard-size paper (8.5 x 11 inches) can be used for most books. It folds in half or quarters to make a small book that is easy for children to handle and carry. The small book with its small pages is less intimidating to fill than a standard-size copy book.

The directions given here for making the Gate Double Signature Book are easy to follow. It is an excellent example of a book that can be made for a variety of uses. We hope that you will enjoy making it with your students.


Gate Double Signature Pamphlet
This type of book is best used to present two contrasting ideas, comparisons, cause and effects, or content and illustrations.

How To Kit: Book Making
This document, available in html and pdf downloads, includes ideas for creating a “bookmaking night” in your school or community. Many of the ideas could also be used in a classroom.

This article was written by Nancy Mazza with Becky Schuler. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

Copyright January 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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