I was always one of those (annoying?) kids who absolutely loved school. I loved to learn and I really think a big part of that had to do with my teachers.
One of my earliest school memories is of standing in the doorway of my first grade classroom jumping for joy and excitedly squealing “I can read!” to anyone who happened to be wandering past. My teacher didn’t make me sit down and be quiet. She encouraged my pride, which only made my excitement about reading grow.
Fast forward two years to third grade. I was now a voracious reader and my teacher introduced a brand new love to me: writing. In Miss Calabrese’s class we wrote our own stories and then turned them into books—books with actual stitching and hardcovers wrapped in patterned wallpaper of our choosing. I can’t even imagine how much time and personal money our teacher must have put into those books, but I treasured mine and the love of writing she unearthed in me has never left.
I’m happy to say that Samantha is just like me. She is the type of kid who will argue her case for why she should go to school rather than why she should stay home. It makes me so happy to see her so excited to learn because I truly believe that a love of learning is a solid foundation for a well-rounded, well-educated adult.
It also makes me happy to see that her beloved teachers are just as encouraging and innovative as my favorites were. This year, her class got to Skype with author Tomie Depaola (I know you’ve heard of Strega Nona, right?). Samantha was ecstatic for weeks leading up to this day. Each kid got to ask Depaola at least one question and she thought long and hard about what she wanted to know. In the end she asked him what inspired him to become a writer.
My girl rode a high from that day in school for a while and really started getting into writing her own little stories. Hoping to encourage her even further, we’ve started making our own version of my third grade teacher’s books.
This DIY is so easy and not only does it encourage writing and storytelling, but it’s also a great way to talk to kids about recycling. We used a bunch of supplies we already had on hand—including an old cereal box.
Here’s what you need:
- paper (we used 20 sheets of printer paper)
- cardboard (we used a cereal box)
- duct tape
- glue stick
- sewing machine or needle and thread (or a stapler!)
First, fold your paper in half and stitch it down the middle (whether with your machine or by hand). If you want to go super easy, just staple the pages together. Next, cut down your cardboard. You need two pieces, one for each cover. The cardboard should be roughly the same size as your folded paper, though you’ll leave some space open around the spine. Use your glue stick to glue the cardboard to the outermost piece of paper. When opened, it should look like photo three at this point. Lastly, stick your duct tape over the open piece of the spine.
That’s it! Now all your little author-in-training needs to do is get to work writing and decorating his/her cover. Samantha is very much into tales of fairies and mermaids right now, which is a lot of fun. I’m thinking our end-of-the-year gift for her teacher this year might have to include a fun story about her class.
Another great gift idea is a donation to your child’s classroom. Office Depot and Adopt-A-Classroom (a nonprofit organization that helps connect donors with teachers to enhance the learning environment for students) have partnered to raise awareness about teachers, and all that they do in the lives of their students. You can help essential, innovative heroes like Chris Emdin (below) who incorporates hip hop into his science lessons for urban youth by donating as little as $5.