by Meredith Flory

As technology and readership changes, the publishing world continues to innovate to find new ways to engage and attract young people to the page.  One of the burgeoning products on the market is the personalized book – where a book is purchased that can incorporate names, pictures or other information from a specific person into the story. I See Me! Personalized Children’s Books is one such brand. I recently spoke to staff at the company, and had the opportunity to review their products with my own children on the pages.

Mompreneur Maia Haag decided to embark on the creation of I See Me! Books while pregnant with her first child.  Haag shared, “We received a personalized book as a gift for our new baby and while we loved it, we thought the quality could have been much better. I had always loved to write and I thought I could write a better book. My husband—a graphic designer—said that he knew he could design a higher quality book.”

The storyline stays the same but the purchaser provides a name and other information pertinent to that book.  The book sent to me, U.S.A. Road Trip! included a picture of my child incorporated throughout, my child’s name in the title, story, on various signs in the illustrations and a message from me at the beginning of the book. Some of their stories connect to a specific holiday and Christmas and Hanukkah ones are available for this time of year.  The series for dog lovers is appropriate for an adult in your life as well – with illustrations that are tailored to match your pet, living or in memoriam.  Other books are on common child interests such as pirates, fairy tale creatures and several coincide with a specific event, such as becoming a big sibling or getting a pet.  Haag and her staff strive for quality and it shows.  She shares, “When I am writing personalized children’s books for I See Me!, I write it with one of my own children in mind. Doing so ensures that I’m writing authentically and with emotion. When I wrote our latest book If My Dog Could Talk, I wrote it with our dog and our children in mind!” While the books are separated into suggestions for boys and girls on the website, make sure to check both categories to find your child’s interest as they can be personalized the name and picture you provide.

As a military family with a move coming up, the staff sent me U.S.A. Road Trip to review due to its focus on driving through all 50 states.  The book places the child’s face on illustrations for a trip across our country and its delightful illustrations and beautiful pictures did not disappoint.  All 50 states are included, but the story also included a page with extra information on our home state and my daughter got a kick out of her picture eating a Georgia peach (her favorite fruit of course).  To move quickly through all 50 states, some states have more detail than others, however, every state is represented and a parent can easily help a child distinguish the landscapes drawn in sweet, colorful illustrations.  My children’s names were also on items like a driver’s license and gas station sign – giving an opportunity to identify those items later as we drive, and to help with name recognition.

While there is a list of state flags with a space for your child to mark which states they have visited, I See Me! also has additional products that can accompany the books and add to the experience (for separate purchase or available in some cases as gift sets).  Ornaments, name stickers and coloring books are some of the other options and would make easy stocking stuffers.  They are releasing their first ever board game soon and as I’ve often mentioned in my column, family game nights are a wonderful way to encourage literacy skills. Haag says of the other products, “Many of our books are educational, and we try to extend the learning into other products that we offer. For example, the scratch-off map that accompanies My U.S.A. Road Trip encourages the child to scratch off the states that he or she has visited. This helps to reinforce how to spell the names of those states and where those states are located. Our My Very Own Name, My Very Own Fairy Tale and My Very Own Trucks books all teach the child how to recognize letters and spell their own names. We offer personalized coloring and  activity books that encourage the child to trace the letters of his or her name, as well as learn about different animals or trucks.”

While the products from I See Me! or other personalized book companies should not replace the role of treasured story books that have more depth of plot and timeless qualities on your bookshelf (as I suggested last year, annual book awards such as the Caldecott and Newberry are excellent ways to find this year’s new classics), they are certainly an entertaining and sweet way to engage your young reader and make them feel special around the holidays. I know my children will love seeing themselves illustrated in the states we drive across to move as the year comes to a close. And if my family wears me down in the whether or not we are getting another pet argument once we arrive, the If My Dog Could Talk! Book will make its way to our shelves.  (All items discussed sold at www.iseeme.com)

This article appears in the November 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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