How To Make Your Own Experience Books

Experience books are an effective technique for developing the skills your child needs for conversational competency.

An experience book is a homemade book put together by a parent and child to capture what is important in the child’s world.

“What did you do today?” A common question parents ask their young child, hoping for an answer with more than an “I don’t know” or no response. Since you can’t spend the whole day with your child, you really want to know what activities they enjoyed, what they ate and what made them smile.  

Sharing and describing personal experiences requires an ability to know what information your listener needs, what order to provide the information, how much detail to include and to understand how the listener will relate to the story. This is a tall order for little ones to master.

Early learning research has reinforced to parents that sharing books and reading aloud will help children in language and literacy development. Research has also emphasized that oral narrative development, the ability to tell about yourself and your experiences descriptively, requires more than just exposure to reading aloud, it requires meaningful conversation practice. This can occur through sharing conversations about a book as well as engaging in ongoing conversations about events and daily routines with your child.

What you’re working toward in LSL intervention is communication competence. Communication competence means more than learning specific vocabulary words and understanding grammar. You want your child to listen, speak in sentences, ask questions, think creatively, solve and verbalize solutions to problems and engage in sharing their experiences with others. In LSL intervention you begin with a focus on typical developmental milestones and practice talking about the here and now. Then through the use of LSL strategies, language comprehension and expression expands to share past experiences and relate to the experiences of others. When children have conversations with others about similar experiences, they’re also developing more meaningful relationships and expanding social skill development. 

One technique for developing the skills needed for conversational competency is through experience books. An experience book is a homemade book put together by a parent and child to capture what is important in the child’s world. These books feature the child as the main character to help them relate their experiences after the event has occurred. For example, an experience book might be created after a trip to the zoo, to the grocery store or after a daily routine such as getting ready for bed. 

Experience books can be a memory key for sharing events with others. They can provide the scaffolding for the child to move beyond talking about the here and now to talking about past or more remote events. Children and parents in LSL intervention are often asked to create experience books at home and share them in the intervention session for practice toward their LSL goals.

So how do you get started?

Experience books can be as simple as paper folded into a book, photographs collected and attached with ring binder clips or placed in a photo album or objects placed in a baggie and taped to a page. Books can be drawn by pencil or crayon, or favorite objects can be glued or stapled on the pages. Some parents enjoy using digital apps to create books and stories from images they take on their phone. 

Whatever the format, the act of creating the book together, dictating and writing the words and phrases associated with the action then retelling the story multiple times will help your child gain the oral language practice needed to develop communication competence.

We’ve provided a handout “How to Make an Experience Book” to guide you on your way to grow an engaging conversationalist through rich and meaningful experiences with your child.