Summer Family Project: Create a Family Book

Jackie Hartmann, executive director of the SCV Education Foundation, sits down for the camera on Friday with Wiley Canyon Elementary kindergarten student Jude Rumbaugh, 5, to talk about a Lego Star Wars book that will be part of the Bag-o-Books program.
Jackie Hartmann, executive director of the SCV Education Foundation, sits down for the camera on Friday with Wiley Canyon Elementary kindergarten student Jude Rumbaugh, 5, to talk about a Lego Star Wars book that will be part of the Bag-o-Books program. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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By Michele E. Buttelman 

It’s summer and the last couple of years have made us appreciate our freedom, our community, our lives and our families. Make this summer special by creating a family project for yourself and future generations.  

Family Cookbook 

It sounds intimidating, the idea of creating a family cookbook. However, it is one of the easiest of all self-publishing books to create.  

Food is one of the most important parts of our family heritage.  

Does your dad make a special barbecue rub? 

Does your mom make the best chocolate chip cookies? 

Does Grandma Nancy make your favorite potato salad? 

Often families realize too late that an important part of traditions and heritage passes away when a family member becomes disabled or dies.  

Protect your favorite food memories and traditions by publishing a family cookbook.  

Have the cover of the cookbook designed by the children in the family. A fun way to do this is to divide a page into sections where each child can make a drawing of their favorite food.  

Another popular cover choice is to gather the family at the holidays and take a big group photo, either at the dining table or another photogenic location and use that picture as the cover.  

There are several websites that will assist you with designing and publishing your book for less than $20 a copy with no minimum number of copies.   

Step 1. Contact your relatives and ask for copies of recipes. These do not have to be original recipes. They can include everything from recipes clipped from a box of Jell-O in the 1960s, to the famous Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe from the 1970s.  

Step 2. Spend a weekend, or two, making these recipes in your kitchen as a family. If you can include the relative who makes your favorite dish, all the better.  

Step 3. Photograph the food. Be sure to put the finished product on a pretty plate and photograph the food in good light. Put a white table cloth over an outdoor patio table or on a counter in the kitchen. If you have a beautiful granite counter put the food on a plain white plate and place on a clean counter with no distracting utensils or food in the frame. Change the camera angle if there is a lens flare or bounce back on the granite from your flash.  

Step 4. Enter the ingredients, recipe instructions and food photos on the forms provided by your cookbook publisher and order your books.  

Family History Picture Book 

This is a fun and meaningful project that helps kids learn where they came from and how the world has changed.  

This is a good exercise for older children that allows them to interact with older relatives. 

Step 1. Gather up a camera (a good cell phone camera will work) and a tape recorder. You can also use cell phone video to capture your interview.   

Step 2. Make appointments with your relatives. Some appointments might be made through Zoom or on the phone.  

Step 3. Ask your relatives to tell you their life stories. Ask them questions along the way.  

“Tell me about your mom and dad.” 

“Where did you grow up?” 

“What did you study in school? What was your favorite subject?” 

“What was your favorite activity to do as a kid?” 

“What was your first job?” 

If you know of an important historical event your relative lived through, ask them to tell you what it was like. For example: “Do you remember the day JFK was assassinated? Did you see the moon landing on television?” 

Step 3. Take a current photo of your relative and ask for a photo of their younger self. Ask for photos of where they lived, photos on the job, photos with their first car, photos with other family members.                

Step 4. Transcribe your interview.  

Step 5. Work with the self-publishing software to lay out the photos and interviews on the pages of the book.  

Other Family Books 

• Family Vacation Book: Travel down memory lane with photos from past vacations and theme park visits.  

• Children’s’ Story Book: Have children write stories using their imagination. The wilder the better. They can also create the artwork for the book. 

• From K-12: Gather photos and report cards for each child and create a custom book documenting their journey from first day of school to high school graduation.  

How to Publish Your Book 

The least expensive way to publish your book is to lay out and print your book on your home computer. A high-quality printer and good quality paper will be necessary to reproduce photos. The “book” can be stapled together or it can be assembled with a plastic coil kit.  

You can also use Staples or Office Depot/Office Max to self-publish with better quality than an at-home project.  

There are three traditional types of books, which vary in durability and functionality. 

• Hardcover: The most durable and long-lasting of books. 

• Softcover: Usually the best option for self-published books because they are cheaper to produce.  

• Plastic Coil: Plastic coil books are perfect for cookbooks as they will lie flat when in use. 

Explore these companies to help create your cookbook. 

Create My Cookbook 

Cookbook Publishers 

Mix Book Photo Company 

Morris Cookbooks 

Explore these publishers for other self-published books. 




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