Vermont Folklife Center

Reader Activities - Alec's Primer

A Family Story Picture Book

Alec Turner never forgot the time that Mistress Gouldin surprised him while he was reading his primer or the whipping he received because slaves weren’t allowed to learn to read. Alec told that story many times during his life, and his daughter, Daisy, told it long after his death.

Certain events stand out in everyone’s memories and they often make good stories. Alec’s story was recorded by a folklorist from the Vermont Folklife Center. You can be a folklorist too and do a research project of your own!

Ask each of the adults that are closest to you if there’s a time in their lives that they’ll never forget. Record your interview using a tape recorder or a video camera.

When you have talked to several people, listen to your recordings and choose the story that you like best. You can retell this story by making your own picture book!

Here’s what you’ll need to make a book:

  • paints, crayons, magic markers, pastels–whatever you like to use to draw!
  • scrap paper
  • white drawing paper cut to size (6 x 8 inch) 
  • white or light-colored 8.5 x 11 inch card stock
  • glue stick
  • paper punch
  • ribbon or string

Planning your book

  • Brainstorm ideas for pictures and words that will tell the story you’ve selected.
  • How many pictures will you need? Use scrap paper to sketch each picture for your story.
  • What do you want to say? Practice writing the words that will go with each picture.

Making your book

  • Draw using the white paper to create your pictures.
  • Put your pictures in order and use a glue stick to attach them to the front and back of each sheet of card stock. Leave a wide margin on one side of the page for binding and along the top or bottom so you can add the words to your story.
  • Copy the words of your story onto the bottom of each page.

Making the cover to your book

  • Choose your favorite scenes from your book and draw them directly on sheets of heavy stock paper for the front and back covers.
  • Your book should have a title, be sure to include your name as author and illustrator, and remember to thank the storyteller.

Binding your book

  • Put you pages in order and fasten them together using a hole punch and ribbon or string.

Publishing your book

  • You can publish your book by photocopying the pages or scanning them into a computer and printing them out.  Bind each copy the way you bound the original. 

Now you’re ready to plan an author’s party!