The Art of Back to School

As the summer fades, the back to school frenzy begins!  Over the past several years, my 3 kids have accumulated a considerable pile of recycled supplies, including notebooks, binders and even a few folders.  Most of these are still in good shape – notebooks missing only a handful of pages, binders with a bent corner or two, and never used folders that are either too babyish now or feature a bygone movie character.  Rather than discard them, revamp those items for the coming year.  Depending on your child’s age, they may need your help with various steps along the way.

Inspiration for this post came from Rock Your School Stuff by Laura Torres (J non-fiction 745.5 T693S) who uses duct tape and other craft materials to turn ho-hum into oh wow!  All of these ideas are applicable to covering textbooks or re-facing spiral notebooks, 3 ring binders and even folders.

Don’t limit yourself to just duct tape either.  We do “old school” book covers at our house – paper grocery bags – and you can then completely cover the paper with duct tape,  or just add make stripes or cut out letters/shapes to create a one-of-a-kind design.  Taped Up Notebook on page 12 has a great tip for cutting shapes/letters out of duct tape. 

1.       Cut some manageable lengths of duct tape and stick to parchment or waxed paper. 

2.       Draw your shapes on the paper side and then cut around and peel off. 

3.       Magnetic letters are great for tracing – just be careful to place them correctly on the paper so they’re not backwards when you flip it over and peel the duct tape! 

Younger children might prefer to decorate paper bag covers with stickers or self-adhesive foamies or even stamping.  Old maps (image courtesy of Martha Stewart) or heavyweight wrapping paper are other paper options for covers.  They can be reinforced around the edges with coordinating duct tape or just clear shipping tape.  Not only will your child easily identify their books, notebooks or binders, they’ll be great conversation starters those first few days of school.  Graffiti Book Covers on page 22 has a nice step-by-step refresher on making paper covers, if you need one, or this video, also from Martha Stewart, provides a great tutorial:

You can certainly go the extra mile and add a pocket (to the front or inside) to hold index cards, a jump drive or a pen/pencil.  To do this just cut a lightweight piece of cardboard or heavier cardstock to the size of your pocket, cover it with your duct tape and then attach to front or inside with additional duct tape. Voila!

For those who prefer fabric, an old pair of jeans can be recycled into a denim fabric cover.  Pocket Book Cover on page 24 shows you how to incorporate a pocket from those jeans as well.

1.       Cut the pant leg off of the jeans and cut along the seam to lay it flat.

2.       Place the notebook cover down on the wrong side of the fabric, trace then cut the fabric out and glue to front cover.

3.       Cut out a back pocket, including the back side of the fabric. 

4.       Slip a piece of wax paper in the pocket before applying glue to back side of the pocket and attaching it to your denim cover. 

5.       Remove waxed paper once the glue has dried. 

Another great idea for a jeans pocket is to attach some magnets to the back and hang it in your locker to hold small items.  Feel free to decorate the pocket with fabric paints, rhinestones, buttons, ribbons or any items in your craft stash.  And don't limit yourself to jeans, an old pair of khakis or even a pocket from a men's dress shirt would also be good choices.

Here’s one how-to video that introduces some more advanced creative ideas, from paint to fabric, your teens might want to try:

To get your little ones in the mood for school, stop by the Youth Services department and pick up our Getting Ready for School reading list featuring preschool and kindergarten picture books and easy readers.  Browse our display of books from this collection in the main aisle as you enter the YS area.

Following is a selection of fiction and non-fiction books for elementary, middle grade and young adult readers:

Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to school: (with some help from Grampa Frank Miller) by Barbara Park

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

Annie’s Plan: Taking Charge of Schoolwork & Homework by Jeanne Kraus (J non-fiction 371.30281 K19A)


Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett (YA)

SEND by Patty Blount (YA)

Mean Chicks, Cliques, and Dirty Tricks: A Real Girl’s Guide to Getting Through the Day with Smarts and Style by Erika V. Shearin Karres, Ed.D. (YA non-fiction 305.2352 K18)

Making Friends: The Art of Social Networking in life and online by Jared Meyer (YA non-fiction158.25 M612M)

The Anxious Test-Taker’s Guide to Cracking Any Test by the Staff of The Princeton Review (YA non-fiction 371.26 A637)

Wishing you and your family a great back to school experience and a year full of new friends and experiences!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.