All you need is a sheet of paper, folding skills, and a little creativity.

By Lesley Porcelli
September 28, 2020
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Aaron Dyer

It's a big moment when a kid gets his or her first textbook—not one of those softcover workbooks full of fill-in-the-blanks, but a heavy, hardcover book, dense with whatever subject it covers. Textbook distribution itself is a ceremony of sorts, often involving filling out very grown-up–type forms regarding the condition of the book: brand spanking new or dented, dog-eared or doodled upon?

Soon after the distribution of textbooks, kids are introduced to another rite of passage: covering them. Schools need to get as much mileage as possible from a supply of textbooks; they do this by asking kids to protect them in paper covers. A cover made from a cut-open brown-paper bag does the trick quite well—it withstands months of use—but heavy construction paper, road maps, wrapping paper, or even scraps of wallpaper allow a kid to design custom covers, all of which are just as good, and sometimes even better, at protecting books from bumps, scratches, or drippy servings of cheese fries.

How to Fold Paper Into a Book Cover

The method for covering a book remains the same as it ever was, but that isn't to say that a few stickers used for embellishment and reinforcement wouldn't be an improvement. If kids are too young to cover books themselves, enlist their help in choosing a style; once they're old enough to master the basic technique, encourage creativity for covers that are as unique as they are practical.

Begin with a piece of paper big enough to wrap around the closed book, adding at least two inches on all sides. Place the book in the center of the paper, and fold the paper against the top and bottom edges of the book to make creases. Remove the book and fold the paper down neatly along these creased lines, keeping folds smooth and even. Place the closed book on the folded paper, two inches away from the right side; wrap the long side of the paper around the front cover of the book, and crease along the edge of the front cover. (It's important to do this with the book closed, or the cover will be too tight.) Remove, fold crisply, then open the book and slide the front cover into the created sleeve. Close the book and crease the other end of the paper against its back cover. Fold down, then open the back cover and slide it into the created sleeve.

How to Decorate Your Book Cover

Use your child's art supplies to artfully customize the cover: Spots and stripes are easy to make with bright stickers and tapes, both of which will also hold a cover in place at the edges. Heavy construction paper is embellished with large polka-dot labels ($11.36, staples.com) from an office-supply store. Washi tape ($21, michaels.com) can weave a pleasing plaid around books covered in brown kraft paper, and tapes keep sleeves from unfolding.

Everyone can use an extra pocket: Stuck to the front of a book, they can keep a class schedule or a supply of self-stick flags in plain view. Purchase self-adhesive plastic business-card holders ($6.79 for 10, officedepot.com), and affix wherever you like on the cover. You can also cover a book with two pieces of heavy construction paper ($10.36 for 50, papersource.com), and that gives you a pocket—a place to slip tests, notes, or a homework reminder. The top sheet should be as tall as the book plus two inches to fold down at the top of the book; the bottom sheet should be half the book's height, plus two inches to fold up at the bottom. Otherwise, keep track of upcoming tests and homework assignments by stashing a little notebook on a textbook cover: Slide two large rubber bands over the front cover of the book, slightly closer together than the width of a small notebook.

For durability that will last for years, use vinyl-coated wallpaper or oilcloth. These materials are thick enough to resist wear and tear—plus, smears wipe clean with a damp cloth.

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