Encourage Reading By Placing Your Child IN The Story.
Lots of sites offer personalized children's books. (In fact, lots of sites offer the same books. Learn what's available.) So how can you be sure the book you buy won't read like a computer wrote it?
Here's The Thing...
The idea of personalizing books for children is a sound one. How better to engage a child in reading than by presenting a book in which he or she stars!
That said, there are many pitfalls. As you know, there are bad books. An uninspired book can discourage reading. When it comes to personalized children's books, the likelihood of happening upon such a book is multiplied.
Firstly, these personalized children's books aren't typically written by the writers whom publishers fight over. More often they're written by the type of people who want to make some money doing something they love.
Unfortunately, a love of writing isn't the only criteria for being a great writer.
My little sister was given a personalized children's book some thirty years ago. It was cute, and she still has it. But it became more a keepsake than a treasured reading experience. It wasn't read for pleasure more than once or twice.
And the technology hasn't changed much.
A pre-written story exists as a template. You submit your child's name and a few other particulars, like your child's age, friends' names, favorite activities, etc. These particulars are then plugged into the story and presto... personalization!
What's Out There
Google Personalized Children's Books (in quotes) and you get a couple hundred thousand listings.
I've been unable to locate a site that speaks to or rates the various vendors out there. A fair number of vendors offer you a sample from one of their books, so you can try to gauge for yourself the quality of what you'll be receiving.
Do you offer unique children's books, personalized for a particular child? Create a listing on this site here.
Many of them also have a clickable image of the cover, allowing you to judge for yourself the quality of the art.
With 200,000+ sites, I wouldn't purchase without at least comforting myself with a quality text sample and cover art.
Here's Another Search Angle
Throw in a modifying keyword so you can check out something other than the first 10 sites that show up and so maybe you can find a book more specific to your child's interests.
For instance, add Hockey to Personalized Children's Books, and now you can find a book where your child stars as a hockey player, rather than just a book where the sport is mentioned as one of his interests.
(Here are some more thoughts on getting that personalized effect via subject matter.)
There are also a fair number of sites promoting personalized children's novels, but my gut says to stay away from them. If your children are past picture books, I suspect they'll recognize the hokeyness/phoniness of a "novel" that pretends to be about them.
You've Probably Gathered From My Tone...
...that I'm not thrilled with the conventional notion of personalized children's books. I'm not.
Let's think of a book we've read. I'm going to think of "Jaws." Frankly, even if Sheriff Brody's name were changed to Steve (my name) and he were described as being of average height with unattractive hair (my hair), I don't think I'd feel like the book was about me.
Will your child be much more easily fooled? (And by a story that isn't as high quality as you're likely to find on a bookstore or library shelf?) I doubt it.
So here are a couple different ideas. Cheaper too.
1) You Know Who Should Write A Book About Your Child? You Should.
It's true. While you may not be as good a writer as the people offering personalized children's books on the web (though actually you may be), you have one distinct advantage over them:
You know your audience a lot better than they do!!!
That's right. You know your child's interests, your child's friends, your child's toys, your child's schedule. How could a stranger possibly do a better job than you of weaving this data into a story featuring your child?
But what about the illustrations? you ask. Here's an idea. Print your story out in booklet form with lots of blank space on each page. Why? So your child can illustrate it.
Tempted? I've done it, and it's one of the most rewarding things I've done for/with my child. And it just so happens there's a page on this site describing how you can do it too!
2) The Ultimate Personalized Children's Book: One Your Child Illustrates
Download one of my children's ebooks. They're pictureless, meaning your child does the illustrations herself or himself. Talk about personalization!
As an added bonus, these books are meant to address problem behaviors many children struggle with. For much less $$$ than a personalized book, your child will get a book he or she can take pride in, plus it may improve a behavior!
How are you going to beat that?
3) Turn A Downloadable or Free Online Book Into Your Own Personalized Children's Book Template
Okay. Maybe you don't have the time, or the faith in yourself (yet) to try option 1). Well, if you're not ready to write a personalized children's book, surely you can be the editor of one.
Download a children's book on the web, then change the text where it makes sense to you in order to create a much more personalized book for your child than a stranger could make.
(Of course, check with the site to see if it's okay with them or make sure for yourself that you're not stepping on anyone's legal rights with this notion.)
But doesn't that leave me with an unillustrated book?
If that's what you downloaded, sure it does... but that's good news, not bad. Print the book out with lots of blank space per page and let your child illustrate it. Nothing could be more personalized than that!
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.