Personalized photo albums allow infants and toddlers to participate in telling stories about their favorite people, favorite activities, and daily lives. These albums provide opportunities for building pre-literacy skills, which are the skills that children need to learn in order to read well when they are older. Some important pre-literacy skills that kids can learn from personalized photo albums include book orientation (holding the book right-side up), book navigation skills (e.g., turning pages from left to right), increased comprehension of narrative language (the type of language used to tell stories), and increased vocabulary. Objects with environmental print can even be incorporated into the books to build early print recognition skills (e.g., an empty, clean piece of an apple sauce pouch with the label visible could be attached to the page to allow the child to share information about favorite foods).
Personalized photo albums can also increase young children’s opportunities for participation in activities with other children and adults, and can build social and turn-taking skills. For example, if a preschool classroom typically has a “show and tell” time, children who have speech delays or disorders could use a personalized photo album to take their turns and share about things that are meaningful to them. If the childcare or school classroom teacher is willing and able to take photos and either print them out or import them into the child’s iPad, then personalized photo albums can be used to allow children to share information with their parents about what they did at school.
There are many different ways to create personalized photo albums for your child. One option is to create these books on the iPad using a photo album app. These apps allow you to import your own photographs, type text to go along with the photos, and record yourself speaking a message for each page. There are several apps that do this, but some good ones to try are Pictello ($19.99), Story Creator (free), and Book Creator (free limited version, or upgrade for $5). Keep in mind that if your child has a physical disability and has trouble using his or her hands, Pictello has the most options for supporting your child’s access (it is switch-adaptable, and the pages can also be turned by tapping with a full hand anywhere on the iPad’s screen for children who cannot point and swipe). You can also create electronic story books on the computer in Tar Heel Reader.
Physical recordable photo albums, meaning photo albums that let you record auditory messages, are available both from companies that make products for individuals with disabilities (e.g., Talking Photo Album by Attainment Company) and sometimes commercially on Amazon or in regular stores.
You can also use a regular photo album or a baby book with spots for adding photos (like the Sassy Look Book here: ) to meet the same goals! In addition to photos, you can try adding things like wrappers from favorite foods, kids’ drawings, stickers from a visit to the doctor, ticket stubs, or objects from nature as reminders of family events and daily routines. One way to do this is to make a “Baggie Book” by putting pictures or drawings in Ziplock bags and stapling them together (e.g., see this description of Baggie Books on Dr. Jean’s blog). Just supervise very closely if you use these with young children, since staples can be sharp and/ or a choking hazard and Ziplock bag zippers can come off and be accidentally swallowed.
Personalized photo story books are a great early learning and communication activity for any baby or toddler- even children without delays or disabilities. They can help your child to build close relationships with others, express concepts, learn about their world, and practice early reading skills. And they are good practice for kids who are learning to use photos for communication!