When my daughter Devora Kaye was in eighth grade she was involved in an ongoing service experience spending Saturdays at a facility for people who have memory loss. She saw a need. There was nothing at the site that would help young people to understand how to start conversations in this setting. She was inspired to write Conversation Starters as Easy as ABC 123—How to have conversations with people with memory loss. In grade ten she authored Increase the Peace—The ABCs of Tolerance in response to losing a good friend to a senseless act of violence. Next, she developed a workshop to teach students and teachers how to adapt and use her process for sharing knowledge whatever themes they choose. The result: this approach has engaged thousands of students on many continents writing and distributing student-authored books on a myriad of topics.
Typically, students select their ABC book theme to address a community need, a topic being studied, or attribute being developed. Examples include The ABCs of: Service, Friendship, Climate Change, Our School, Learning, Community, Family, and From Apples to Zucchini—The ABCs of Gardening, and so on. Student involvement in this decision adds to the ownership.
Download the ABC Book Template for bringing this idea to your students or youth group. A few tips from Devora:
- Once the theme is determined, students collaborate in pairs on a letter; you may have more pages then pairs (keep reading to find out what happens with the extra pages).
- If students are stuck coming up with a word for their page, have them ask the class to help brainstorm.
- Use black pens, ideally everyone using the same kind; this adds more uniformity and turns the book into a coloring book for the recipient.
- Students use the letter on the page for the first letter in the header; in the larger box they draw an illustration and in the smaller box they write a few brief sentences about what this represents to them in relation to the theme. Sometimes teachers have students work on a sample page, and then with approval and maybe some editing they make their final.
- Remind students it’s not a race to finish; when a page is done, give out the next page. You will find some student pairs complete one page and others may finish several.
- Then give out the About this Book page to fill in the missing info, the Cover to decorate, and the Reflection pages for their reflections about the process.
- Everyone signs the Author page (some schools say “first names only”).
As a class brainstorm to determine who would benefit from copies of the book. Make enough to share. Some books have been written to be bilingual and even trilingual. They have been given to shelters, places in hospital waiting rooms, read to younger children, and shared with peers.
Having copies of Devora’s books Conversation Starters and Increase the Peace are excellent models for your students. Proceeds from the sale of these books are donated to causes related to memory loss and to nonviolence.
We welcome copies of your books, Contact Us and let us know you are using ABC Book template. Great fun for all!