PERSONAL PAGES: Your 5-Minute Alternative to Personal Books


You know I’m a serious soap-box champion of personal books, right? Yes. Forever. But here’s an alternative I use at nearly all of my teaching sessions: PERSONAL PAGES. It takes about 5 minutes, and you’ll love it. More to the point, your learner will love it.

You just need paper, a set of markers, and 5 or 10 minutes max.

That's it. You're ready if you've got this.

That’s it. You’re ready if you’ve got this.

That’s it. Oh, and a student. I can best show you by telling you a story:


One of my students–I’ll call her Melissa (not her name)–has multiple challenges in addition to Down syndrome. She is profoundly oppositional (not a total surprise, since she’s a teen) and can sabotage any desperate efforts her parents or I or anyone else make to get her compliance. She simply sits heavily in her chair and says, “No.” Again and again.

At our last session, her mom dragged her in to our reading session and mouthed to me “She’s driving me crazy!!!” I knew well of what she spoke.

So now Melissa and I are alone in the room and I’m getting a firm litany of “NO! NO! I can’t read!” After a seeming eternity of this, and fruitless efforts on my part to engage her with various strategies, I got out my stack of blank paper and a pack of multicolored markers.

“What color marker do you want me to use?” I ask. She always has an opinion about that. “Red,” she says firmly.  It’s Christmas time, and Melissa seems to like the tiny lighted Christmas tree I’ve put on the table near us. It’s an engaging motivator, and I’ll use anything that works.

christmas-tree-clip-art-xmas_christmas_tree_5-3333px“Do you have a Christmas tree at home?” I ask innocently. Keep in mind that up until this moment, Melissa (who can speak well when she chooses to) has been nearly mute except for “NO.” But at that question, Melissa opens her mouth and communicates a stream of consciousness so fast that I can hardly write it down in time. “Yes, the tree is green and big and has a yellow star on top that has to be attached with a rubber band or it will fall off and that’s Dad’s job to put it on top of the tree because Mom can’t do it…”

We were off and running. When I finished writing, we had 3 handwritten pages in red, all of which she read without a single objection. She tucked those pages into her reading binder and was, like, outta here with them.

Simple Guidelines

I consider that transformation a mini-miracle, or a powerful motivator to say the very least. So…are there some general guidelines? Yes.

  1. Print by hand if you can. CLEARLY. Make all letters consistent in size and shape. If you can’t print like a pretend calligrapher, get to a computer and pound it out in a large, sans-serif font like Arial. If you want to add a picture or clipart, all the better.
  2. Double-space between each word. This makes reading easier for the brain.
  3. If possible, let the learner dictate the page to you. If the child isn’t verbal, no problem. Write it yourself from your own knowledge of the student.
  4. If what the child dictates to you isn’t true, do you need to correct it? No. In this instance, fantasy is fine because it motivates.
  5. Write the child’s thoughts in complete sentences. You’re teaching language and grammar as well as reading!


…works wonders. A page or two created like this is fodder for daily practice until next week when you’ll make another one. Keep them in a special dedicated binder. You’ll wind up with a “personal book” one day!

Happy Holidays, Everyone!



Recent Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • Liz Tree

    so good!

    • Natalie Hale

      Thanks, Liz! It’s a great little motivational tool.