Adventures in Book Binding, Journals, and Creative Writing

By Kimberly Archer

Photos and Graphics by Catherine Cameron

Length of Program

60 – 90 minutes

Program Description

This program will engage teens in creative activities that promote self-reflection, personal insight, and self-expression. Teens will learn how to make journals, scrapbooks, and greeting cards with embellishments. In addition, teens will learn about journaling, writing poetry, and other forms of written expression. Teens will need little direction to fill their booklets and cards with embellishments, content and creative stories, poems or phrases. Teens don’t have to be naturally creative in order to complete these projects, and some projects are much simpler than others.

Developmental Needs and Assets

This program provides teens with the opportunity to engage in activities that address the developmental assets of interpersonal competence, creative activities, planning, and decision-making. The program also engages teens in creating a positive identity and developing self-esteem, as well as a sense of purpose and personal power. Creative endeavors require thought and planning, and teens will make decisions about design, layout, format, materials, color, and embellishment when creating books, journals, scrapbooks, and greeting cards. In addition, by learning about journal writing, poetry writing, and other forms of written creative expression, teens will gain insight into their own personal identity, explore their self-esteem, and discover a sense of purpose and empowerment.


This section includes a variety of activities that can be incorporated into one program or spread out over the summer for a series of programs. Each of the suggested activities will involve similar preparation and will require similar supplies. In advance, purchase a variety of arts and crafts materials that can be re-used for each activity. Buying in bulk will save money. If low-cost bulk supplies are not available locally, they can be purchased online from discount vendors such as Dick Blick Art Materials,, or Nasco Arts and Crafts Supplies, Make sure to look for the AP symbol on arts and crafts supplies, indicating the item conforms to ASTM D 3246 non-toxic specifications. This is especially important for glue, inks and paints.

Volunteers can help with preparations. Before the arts and crafts programs, cover tables with newspaper or butcher paper to save time on clean up, especially if you are using glue, ink, or paint, and set out the supplies.

At the beginning of the program, take a few minutes to go over directions with the teens before they begin their projects. If possible, provide a written list of supplies and instructions so that teens can recreate the project at home on their own.

Books to Display

1,000 Artist Journal Pages: Personal Pages and Inspirations by Dawn DeVries.

Altered Books, Collaborative Journals, and Other Adventures in Bookmaking by Holly Harrison.

The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery: Mixed Media Techniques for Collage, Altered Books, Artists Journals and More by Karen Michel.

Hand Lettering Made Easy by Debra Beagle.

The Instant Printmaker: Simple Printing Methods to Try at Home by Melvyn Petterson and Colin Gale.

Outstanding Mini Albums: 50 Ideas for Creating Mini Scrapbooks by Jessica Acs.

Painless Poetry by Mary Elizabeth.

Stamping Fun for Beginners by Mary Jo McGraw.

Totally Teen Scrapbook Page: Scrapbooking the Almost Grown-up Years by the editors of Memory Makers Books.

Your Words, Your Story: Add Meaningful Journaling to Your Layouts by Michele Skinner.

Books to Share and Booktalk

The Brimstone Journals by Ron Koertge.

A Fire in My Hands by Gary Soto.

Hard Hit by Ann Turner.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones.

Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant.

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan.

Sister Slam and the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip by Linda Oatman-High.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar.

Street Love by Walter Dean Myers.

You Hear Me? Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys edited by Betsy Franco-Feeney.


Prepare posters or flyers for the programs. An example of a poster to advertise the Magnetic Poetry project and the simple bookbinding project are provided here. Hang the posters around the library but also distribute flyers at local teen hangouts and the craft stores in the community.

Find a Bookbinding Flyer and Magnetic Poetry Set Flyer at the end of this program.

Create flyers and posters that emulate the format of scrapbook pages or journal pages. Use bright colors and fun fonts. Be sure to mention the program is free.

Bulletin Board

Express Yourself!

Design a bulletin board that will serve as a large scrapbook or journal page. Use stamps or die-cuts to create a border, and specialty art paper or colorful scrapbook paper as the background. Hand-letter words, quotes, or phrases about creative expression. Post examples of scrapbook pages.

Magnetic Poetry

Turn the bulletin board into a large “magnetic” poetry board. Use a magnetic poetry set as the model for this bulletin board. Instead of small magnetic words, print words in larger letters on card stock paper and laminate them. Use double-sided poster tape, tacks, or staples to attach the words to the bulletin board. Let teens come up with creative phrases for the board. Make sure to establish rules about appropriate language and topics.


Refreshments aren’t necessary for arts and crafts programs, but food is always a great incentive for teens. Limit snacks to dry and non-greasy foods such as cookies or pretzels, since sticky, greasy fingers can ruin paper crafts. Also, provide beverages with lids, such as bottled water or juice packs, rather than in cups to limit the possibility of spills that will also ruin paper crafts. If desired, provide a variety of “raw materials” and let the teens create their own snacks. For example, provide icing, pretzel sticks, gumdrops, licorice lace, and other treats to use in decorating personal slices of cake, cookies, or crackers.


Arts and crafts programs are always a big hit with teens and little incentive is needed to encourage them to participate. The incentive is the activity itself and the finished product each teen will leave, including personal journals, scrapbooks and greeting cards. If desired, give small blank journals, such as those available from Dover Publications,, as mementos for participating in the program.


From Cards to Journals: A Simple Book Binding Project

Book Binding Example 1 - white cover with red and tan checkerboard pattern   Book Binding Example 2 - black cover, olive spine, and a large floral pattern on frame with olive and square in the middle

  • Fabriano Medioevalis greeting cards (landscape format 4 ½” x 6 ¾”)
  • Handmade paper, assorted colors (11”x15”)
  • Handmade paper, assorted colors (4 ¼ “x 11”)
  • Photo mounts
  • Glue dots
  • Fancy glass bead mix, 1-pound package
  • Embroidery floss, assorted colors
  • Blunt tipped embroidery needles
  • Wood handled awl (used by librarian)

Handmade paper and specialty cards are available from craft and paper suppliers like Dick Blick, Each booklet will include one cover sheet of decorative paper and four greeting cards. In preparation for the program, divide the greeting cards into packets of four, nesting the cards together so that when opened, they form a booklet. Cut the 11” x 15” paper into 5” x 15” strips and fold them in half to form a 5” x 7 ½” landscape (horizontal) cover. Cut the embroidery floss into 15-inch lengths. Ask the teens to bring pictures and other mementos they would like to use to decorate the inside of their booklets. Alternatively, they can leave pages blank to use for writing thoughts and phrases. At the program, distribute one set of greeting cards and one 5” x 7 ½” cover to each teen. Teens start by embellishing their covers using decorative papers, photos, or other memorabilia (see example). Use glue dots or photo mounts to adhere the items. After decorating the covers, place the four nested greeting cards inside. The librarian or a volunteer then uses a sharp wood handled awl to punch three holes into the spine of the booklet. Start with one hole in the middle and then add one hole on each side, making sure to stay at least 1/2" away from the top or bottom edge of the booklet. Use a dull-pointed embroidery needle to thread one length of embroidery floss through the holes. From the outside, thread the floss through the holes at the top and the bottom of the spine. Then bring both ends of the thread up through the middle hole. The floss will be on the outside of the booklet and can be tied into either a knot or a bow. The booklets can be further embellished by taking a couple of small glass beads and threading them onto each end of the floss. Tie a knot at the end of each thread to hold the beads in place.

Accordion Fold Memory Album: Another Simple Book Binding Project

Accordion Fold Memory Album example 1 - Standing on edges   Accordion Fold Memory Album example 2 - The book is open with pages more prominent.
  • Accordion-fold Zig Zag Book Kit Class Pack
  • Assorted decorative papers in an assortment of gender-neutral designs
  • Glue dots
  • Photo mounts
  • Liquid glue

Supplies for this project are available from art supply companies like Nasco Art Supplies, Each kit comes with basic instructions, plus 24 chipboard cover pieces and 12 accordion-fold inserts. Ask teens to bring photos and flat memorabilia to add to their booklet. In advance, cut the decorative paper into 6” x 7 ¼” sheets, providing several different choices, including gender-neutral paper. Select two pieces of decorative paper for the front and back cover of the booklet. The decorative paper must be thin in order to fold tightly around the chipboard. Place the chipboard in the center of one piece of wrapping paper, decorative side down. Fold the paper over the side edges and crease the paper. Affix one side of the paper to the chipboard using one glue dot in the center. Pull the other side of the paper tight, again affixing the paper to the chipboard using one glue dot in the center. Use two more glue dots on each side, placing one in each corner to complete attaching the paper to the chipboard. At the top edge, fold both corners in. Then fold the paper over the chipboard using three glue dots to affix the paper to the chipboard. Repeat the process for the bottom edge. The back cover will be done the same way. Once the teens have finished decorating the front and back covers, take one side of the accordion fold insert and affix it to the front cover, using liquid glue sparingly. Repeat this step to attach the back cover to the insert. Teens will then decorate the insert as they wish using photo mounts to adhere photos and flat memorabilia. They can then use the book to preserve a story, write poems, or simply make a memory album full of their favorite pictures and mementos.

Print Making, Printing, Stamping and Lettering: Embellishments for Books

Print mkaing example - safari image - several trees, elephant, and a mountain

print making example - 'rose' spelled in large square blocks. The colors used are orange, black, and white.

Three print making examples, one of cat, frog, and another with flat hour glass designs

Simple Printmaking Techniques

  • Scratch Foam Printmaking Class Pack (Available from Dick Blick,, the pack includes everything needed to make prints, including the paper, except for the ink.)
  • Speedball Water Based Block Printing Inks, Starter Kit (Available from Dick Blick, the kit includes the supplies needed to create and pull prints.)
  • Sharpened Pencils
  • White photocopier paper
  • Pencils
  • Butcher paper or disposable tablecloths

Printmaking can be as simple or complex as desired and images can be created using potatoes and paint, wood and linoleum cuts, acid etching, and more. This simple project will use prints to embellish handmade journals and books. In advance, cut the 6” x 9” foam printmaking pieces in half. Cut the printing paper into 5” x 8” pieces. Cover the tables and floor with butcher paper or plastic. Set up the inking plates, inks, and printing paper on a separate table so that teens may bring their foam pieces to the table to print once they have designed their image.

Make sure the teens wear old clothes for this program; even though the ink is water based, it won’t come out of clothes or carpets. Have the teens draw a picture or design on a piece of paper. Use a sharpened pencil to “draw” or imprint the picture or design into the foam printmaking piece. While the teens are designing their images, start preparing the inking plates. Squeeze about a quarter size of ink onto the inking plate. Load the roller by rolling the ink onto the inking plate. Use a different roller for each color unless you intentionally want to mix colors. As each teen completes a design on their foam printmaking piece, the librarian rolls the “loaded” roller over the foam printmaking piece until it is entirely covered with color. Use the ink sparingly because if ink goes into the drawn lines of the image, the image will not turn out. When the entire foam piece is covered with color, hold a piece of print paper three to four inches from the inked foam piece. Center it and “drop” the paper onto the foam piece. Use the plastic brayer supplied in the kit to completely rub the paper over the foam piece to insure a strong, clean image. Teens can make several prints from one piece of foam but will need to clean the plates with water if they want to switch colors.

Create Your Own Magnetic Poetry Set

  • Adhesive magnet tape (available in rolls that are 1/2” x 10’)
  • Manila envelopes
  • Card stock, various colors
  • Photocopier paper
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Markers and gel pens
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus

In advance, cut the card stock into strips that are 1/2” x 11”. Distribute one roll of magnetic tape and 20 to 30 strips of 1/2” x 11” card stock to each teen. Teens write down at least 20 of their favorite words, including five nouns and five verbs. In addition, have the teens write down the following common words: I, you, she, he, him, her, it, them, they, me, if, and, but, or. Provide a dictionary and a thesaurus in case teens need to check their spelling or need help finding words. Once teens have their list of words, they will prepare the magnetic poetry pieces. Write the words, using markers or gel pens, on the half-inch strips of card stock leaving some room between each word. Roll out the strips of magnetic tape flat on the table. Peel off the protective coating on the magnetic strip, exposing the adhesive side. Carefully place the strip of cardstock, word side up, onto the magnetic strip. The teens will repeat this process until they have affixed all of their strips of words to the magnetic strip. Then carefully cut each word until they are all separate. Place the magnetic poetry kit into a manila envelope to take home.

Games and Activities

Creative Writing Exercise

Have teens write a collective story. Each teen will write an opening paragraph to a story. You can have them start with a cliché opening like, “It was a dark and stormy night,” or, “Once upon a time.” Give the teens five minutes to write a paragraph. Then teens pass their paragraphs to the right (or left). Each teen will then take five minutes to write the next paragraph before passing the story on again. This program can be as short or as long as you want to make it, but make sure to announce which round is the end of the story. The final paragraph should wrap up the story. If there is time, have several teens read the story for which they just wrote the ending. Make copies of all of the stories for the teens to pick up at the next program or workshop.

Journal Writing Exercise

Pick a theme that requires personal insight for teens to write about. Themes can be thoughtful, serious, or silly. For this exercise, pick three sample questions for teens to write about. Some examples might include:

  1. What do you think about green energy and what do you do to help save the planet?
  2. If you could be a super hero, what would you be and why?
  3. What makes you angry”

Teens do not need to share their journal entries with anyone unless they wish to do so. Some of the articles in the Professional Resources section offer additional journaling themes and ideas.

Poetry Exercise

Have teens write twenty of their favorite words on a piece of paper. They will then use those twenty words (and only those words) to write a poem. Poems resulting from this exercise may make little to no sense, be silly in nature, or they may be a brilliant masterpiece. Invite teens to read their poems. Read your own poem first to get things started.

Guest Speakers

Contact local arts and crafts stores such as Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and Texas Art Supply, or a scrapbooking store, and ask if they have any instructors who would volunteer to present demonstrations or teach a class at the library. They may teach classes for free or offer discounts to non-profit organizations. In smaller communities or rural areas, contact art instructors at local schools and colleges to ask if there are teachers or students who will volunteer their time. Even many smaller towns have a craft business or artists who will work with the teens.

Poetry, creative writing, and journal writing are great ways for teens to express themselves. Contact your local writer’s guild, high school creative writing instructor, or local poets and writers and invite them to teach a workshop on writing poems or stories. Writer’s guilds and local writers will often do programs for free, although they may request a small stipend for their time and supplies.


Show these videos and DVDs or segments of them if you have public performance rights. Otherwise, display them for home use.

An Altered Journey with Tim Holtz. (127 minutes)

Freedom Writers. (122 minutes)

Scrapbooking: Memories Made Simple. (119 minutes)

Speak. (93 minutes)

Web Sites

Shadow Poetry

The words on this “magnetic poetry” site change twice weekly and users are invited to submit their poetry for publication.

Teen Ink

This is the online version of a national magazine that is devoted entirely to teenage writing and art. The magazine and website depend entirely on teen submissions for content.


Cicada (Y)

Part of the Carus Publishing group of magazines, this seasonally published journal features quality poetry for teens.

Scrapbooks, Etc. (Y+)

Part of the Better Homes and Gardens family of magazines, this one offers step-by-step directions for creating exciting scrapbook pages.

Professional Resources

52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity by Jeffrey Yamaguchi.

The Michaels Book of Paper Crafts by Dawn Cusick and Megan Kirby.

The Poet’s Pen: Writing Poetry with Middle and High School Students by Betty Bonham Lies.

About .com: Journals in the Classroom by Melissa Kelly

This site offers information on how to use journaling as an instructional tool, along with links to additional sites with information and suggestions for topics.

Journal Topics for Teens: Helping Middle School Students Improve Writing Skills with Journals by Katelyn Thomas.

This e-journal article suggests several topics to spark journal writing.

Pomegranate Words

Online classes in various forms of writing, an online magazine, and teen contributed book reviews are features of this site.

Scrapbooking 101

This site offers basics of scrapbooking for beginners.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

This organization includes several regional chapters in Texas. Members include published and aspiring writers and illustrators who are often willing to present programs in libraries.

Program Materials and Examples

Bookbinding Flyer

Printer Friendly PDF Version (326 KB)

Bookbinding Flyer - Title From Cards to Journals, the border is made up of tropical red, blue, orange, yellow flowers, and the middle has a large blank square section for date, time, place

Magnetic Poetry Set Flyer

Printer Friendly PDF Version (103 KB)

Magnetic Poetry Set Flyer - Large image of a hand holding a pen, and the middle has a large blank square section for date, time, and place

Texas Teens Read 2010! Programming Manual / Within Arms Reach: The Future is Yours!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 10, 2011