It's Not a Box! No, Really!!

We offer monthly meetings for day care providers during the school year to boost their early literacy might, introduce them to great books and methods to share books and to highlight our collections and services. We have been certified as registered CE instructors to help our daycare teachers keep up their learning and credentials in our state-level Registry.

In April, our training was all based on Antoinette Portis' multi-dimensional book Not a Box. We asked attendees to each bring a box of whatever size. Just in case anyone forgot, I gathered empty book boxes for a week or so prior to the training. Why did I worry?  Everyone brought one!!!

I put out a selection of our finest stuff: scrapbook paper, tissue paper, stampers, markers, foamies, felt pieces, feathers, glue sticks, eyeballs, yarn and any other doo-dad I could lay my hands on.  Tables to stand and work at were put out.

When everyone arrived, I read the Portis' book and talked about the importance of imagination, play and creativity. I gave a few examples of stories that you could extend with a cardboard box to accompany them (a car box for Sutherland's Dad's Car Wash; a train car box for Crews' Freight Train). 

Then the challenge. Create something out of their box using materials at hand and then work with me to find a picture book in the collection to match their box design. Read the book quickly. At the conclusion of the workshop, each provider then shares the box and booktalks the book with rest of the attendees. If someone had a particular book in mind that was checked out, they could, in addition to talking about a book on their box's theme, tell about the other book they use that works great.

The results were amazing. People took special care with their boxes, with their reading, with their booktalking and with their additional recommendations. As a children's literature expert, I also added title ideas as well depending on what each person made.

It was a perfect blend of creativity and matching books to object! Below please see their wonderful creations!

Rabbit, horse, robot

Space, VH Caterpillar, penguin, birthday cake
Garden, car wash, ladybug, monster, suitcase
Surprise box, box to leave your shouts in, garden

fun box, garden, playhouse, ?, ocean


  1. I love this idea and I love all the creative things people did with their boxes!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I always read your posts and go, "I want to do that!" I'm using Not a Box for a summer reading program where our local recycling center is bringing boxes and recycled goodies to make art with us. The speaker will be talking about some of things made with recycling and how our center is making biofuels. I'm pretty excited about it in the geekiest way. (Captain Planet cosplay, anyone?)

  3. Marge, I was thrilled to see this post! I did the same activity with a staff of preschool teachers back in the Fall. It was amazing to see how much fun they had, how creative they were, and how it tied together the early literacy practices of reading, talking and playing!