SUCCESS STEP 6: Do You Need Help with Your Personal Books? Here’s a Frozen Idea…

The Road to Excitementfrozen-rev

Personal books are PRIMO in getting your child hooked on the joy of reading. Primo. There is no faster way to both ramp up their enthusiasm and give them quick reading success.

That being a fact, I want to stop and see how you’re doing with them. We want to make sure Personal Books are in place before moving on to Success Step 7.

I first talked about Personal Books in SUCCESS STEP 2.  Have you found them easy to create? Is your child crazy about them and learning vocabulary quickly? Or are you still not sure how to get started?

Fast & Easy With PowerPoint

I’ve written a blog about apps for creating personal books; but a reader just gave me another tip that’s a no-brainer, and it’s probably lurking in your computer right now: PowerPoint in Microsoft Office. Learn how to create one page, and you’re done. Sooooo easy. All the pages of personal books are built on the same simple page design.

OlafLet’s Take a “Frozen” Walk Through a Personal Book

Taking the movie “Frozen” as a topic, let’s walk through the process of making a personal book for an emergent reader. I’m going to talk as if you’ve already done it:

  1. You selected your child’s FAVORITE person/thing/TV character/etc. as your first Topic. Let’s say it’s “Frozen.”
  2. You came up with 6 or so high interest words on that topic. For instance: Frozen,  Anna, magic, Elsa, Olaf, sister, fun.
  3. You consulted your Dolch list (which you keep at your elbow) and picked another 5-10 high frequency words to use repeatedly from that list. For instance: is, love, are, play, and, make, have, I, with. As you write your little book, be flexible; you’ll probably want to modify both lists once you see what sentences you can or can’t make with them.
  4. You then wrote 5-10 short sentences using that vocabulary. For example:
    • I  love  Frozen.
    • Frozen  is  fun.
    • Anna  and  Elsa  are  sisters.
    • Elsa  makes frozen  magic.
    • Elsa  makes  Olaf.
    • Anna plays with Olaf.
    • Anna  and  Olaf  and  Elsa  have  fun.
    • I love Frozen.
    • The End (gotta put that in; children love it)
    • (Note: Ending the way you began, as in this example,  creates a simplistic “story arc” that gives a feeling of completeness to the child.)
  5. You created your book in landscape setup, using only right hand pages; you remembered to double-space between each word and to repeat each sentence on two pages:
    • First Right-Hand Page (RHP): I love Frozen.
    • Second RHP: (picture of Frozen) with text underneath: I love Frozen.
    • Third RHP: Frozen is fun.
    • Fourth RHP: (picture of child having fun with the movie) with text underneath: Frozen is fun.
    • Repeat, repeat, repeat until the book is finished. Staple along the short side, or bind it in some way.

Now that you’ve finished the book, you’ve created a good-sized flash card (e.g., 5×8 index card) for each one of those words in the book, and you’re all done.

Set To Go

Now you’re set. You’re teaching both the book and the flash cards “Sandwich Style,” flashing/reading the book/flashing the cards. You’re showing the cards using the Fast Flash technique (+video “how to”).

Looking Ahead to Book #2

I found my children dancing in a "Personal Book Fortress" made of some of Jonathan's Personal Books. (1991). Priceless.

I found my children dancing in a “Personal Book Fortress” made of some of Jonathan’s Personal Books. (1991). Priceless.

So what high-frequency word list are you going to use for your next Personal Book? You guessed it. The same list you used for the first one, if at all possible. You want to hit those words frequently until they’re absorbed into your child’s memory. But we don’t want to emphasize them, as they’re basically meaningless (and definitely not motivating) to the child. Instead, we want to appear to teach those words “accidentally” by stringing them between fantastically motivating words.


Success!  There is nothing like the motivation of these Personal Books, I guarantee it. And if you have any doubt at all about that, “Let it go, let it go, let it go!” (Have you seen the Mom Parody on YouTube? “I said no! I said no! I said no!” Love it.)

Cheering you on,


Looking for more success box



Recent Posts
Showing 4 comments
  • Julie

    Thank you again! Your blogs are so helpful!!!

    • Natalie Hale

      You’re so welcome, Julie! Good luck with your books!

  • Julie

    Hi Natalie! We’re working on some personal books. For an emergent reader (5 1/2 yrs old, just a few sight words under her belt), would you recommend avoiding pronouns and sticking with the main topic word repeated in each sentence? Like if the book is about puppies, saying, “I like puppies. Puppies are cute. I pet puppies at the park.”
    Thank you for everything. We are just so amazed, thrilled, and encouraged by our daughter’s progress. I had no idea she could learn sight words before even knowing her alphabet! So awesome!

    • Natalie Hale

      Hi, Julie! Some quick advice: yes, in general avoid pronouns for now. Use “I” and “we” if you write a book about the family. I’m glad you gave sample sentences, as that makes it easy for me to help you. Since she has just a few words, keep the puppy book to something like, “I like puppies. Puppies are cute. I pet puppies. Mom pets puppies. Daddy pets puppies. Puppies are fun. I like puppies.” In this, you’ve already thrown 3 verbs at her: like, are, pet. So you want to repeat, repeat those words. It’s often a good fit to repeat the initial sentence at the very end, as I’ve suggested here. Save the more complex “at the park” for the next book! For example, “I like the park. I pet puppies at the park. I run at the park. I swing at the park. I like the park.” Good luck, and if you go to the NDSC conference next week, stop in at my Special Reads booth!