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Linda Mah
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Winchell Learns About Book Arts

Kalamazoo Book Arts Center Helps Students Make Books

How do you get kids interested in writing and reading?

Maybe you start by getting them interested in books — making books.

The Kalamazoo Book Arts Center has partnered with area schools for almost nine years to help elementary school children learn about book making, everything from papermaking to printing to book binding.

This year some of the participants in the book-making project were from Winchell Elementary, where third and fourth graders traveled to the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center in the Park Trades Building, to make the paper used for their book covers and to create prints that decorated the inside of their books.

Their prints were also featured in the center’s annual “Kid Prints Extravaganza” in February, in which hundreds of works were hung around the gallery for a public exhibition during one of downtown Kalamazoo’s popular Art Hops.

Sarah Cheek-Toomey, art coordinator for Kalamazoo Public Schools, said the book project takes a holistic approach to reading and writing. Not only do the students make books, but they participate in special writing assignments, which are used as content for the books.
“We talk about literature and where books come from in terms of resources, time and energy,” Cheek-Toomey said.

KBAC Executive Director Jeff Abshear started the program and says Kalamazoo Public Schools have participated since the beginning. In the early years, the KBAC artists traveled to schools for the program. Now students come to the center, which has more space for the sometimes sloppy process of papermaking, as well as printing presses to show students.

During Winchell’s visit late last year, students split into two groups. While one group worked with tubs filled with paper pulp and screens to create sheets of paper, the other half of the students created drawings that they then carved out of foam blocks to create prints on colored pieces of tissue paper.

Several weeks later, KBAC’s studio manager Katie Platte went to Winchell, where she showed the students how to do a simple stick binding, with sticks, yarn and beads, to give their books their final form.

“I thought it was really cool,” said Winchell third-grader Savannah Robert. “I liked how we could make our own prints and how we learned the actual process of making the paper. I thought making the paper was a little more interesting. It was fun working with the water and the pulp.”
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