The year my husband and I got engaged I decided to create a family yearbook, a memory book containing the year’s photographs, stories, and favorites. Each year since, I continue to create family yearbooks as a way to hold onto and organize the history of our growing family. Around 18 months old, Eli discovered the yearbook containing his birth and first year of life. This book quickly became a favorite, and he’d pull it down from where we keep our yearbooks, and we’d look at the entire 150+ page book together. He’d point to and name family members and recount trips to the zoo, vacations, and day-to-day events, and I realized, in an effort to preserve our family history, I had created Eli’s first history book, and as a young toddler, the only history that currently matters to him: his own.
Getting started: picture organization. The thought of gathering the thousands of pictures you take a year and compiling them into a book can be overwhelming, for sure. After a few years of doing this, I have a few tips for organization:
- Download photographs to your computer as often as you can. Although my goal is monthly, sometimes six months go by before I remember to do this. It’s not ideal, but it’s okay. Just get them on your computer. It’s the important first step to getting started.
- Use file folders. Once the photographs are on your computer, sort only the photos you will want in your yearbook into file folders. I name my file folders based on event or month. (Months are for all those extra day-to-day photographs which I compile into collages. I’ll explain this more in a bit.) This takes the most time, but once it’s finished, you can work on the yearbook pages at your leisure and with ease. Everything is ready to go and organized once you are ready to be creative.
- Keep a running timeline of events in a separate document. This helps you remember what month your child’s first haircut or first gymnastic class were in, and this also serves as a checklist of completed yearbook pages.
Publishing program options. I use Blurb (the BookWright program, which is downloaded from Blurb for free), but other popular options are Lulu, Artifact Uprising, and Shutterfly. Without having too much knowledge of the other photo books, I love the options and quality of Blurb. It’s user friendly and so easy to publish and order books. Plus, you can almost always find a decent promo code to save you money. Our books are 13×11, and for roughly 200 pages, it cost $90 with a 40% off promo code this year plus $6 shipping cost. Yes, it’s an investment, but the book will be cherished for years to come.
Ideas of what to include in your yearbook.
- Personalized cover. I try to find a cover image that symbolizes our year. This year I used one of Eli’s paintings, a process piece he worked on for over a month. I thought it expressed the joy of this year, Eli’s process of transforming from infant to toddler, and our parenting hopes of giving Eli the opportunity to play, to experiment, and to discover the world at his own pace.
- Epigraph. Each year we include a quote we feel represents the year–either in thought or events. This year we included a favorite quote from Dr. Maria Montessori.
- Collages. With self-publishing books, you pay by page, not by picture, so for all those day-to-day pictures that would otherwise get lost and forgotten, I create monthly photograph collages. These are my favorite pages–such an easy and lovely way to capture our “real life” moments.
- Stories. Whether they are the stories of grand adventures or quiet moments you don’t want to forget, including stories allows your family’s voices to also be remembered. As soon as our children are old enough to write their own stories and memories, they will be included as well. Here’s an example of a little story about Eli from this past year.
- Favorites. We are big on “favorites” in our family, so especially after a trip, we brainstorm our favorite moments and include them in the yearbook. Favorites are a great way to capture all those little moments, all those inside jokes that may otherwise be forgotten. We also include a list of year end favorites, focusing on our favorite sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch of the year. This year, a month shy of two years old, we asked Eli what his favorites were in these categories, and he was already able to answer. I love, love, love that his favorites are in his own words and are included at the end of our yearbook.
Trust me when I say the time and energy put into these yearbooks are worth it. By Eli’s request, we look through the yearbooks several times a week, and while he studies the pages, Eli is also developing language, learning history, being introduced to abstract concepts such as time, and honing memory and recall skills. These yearbooks provide way more than a way for me to hold back sniffles as I stare lovingly at pictures of my baby growing up too fast, but you know, there’s plenty of that, too.