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How to Repair the Spine of a Child's Board Book

Mickie is a retired librarian who wants to save the world one book at a time.

The technique can also be used to repair a spine on a paper book, as well.

The technique can also be used to repair a spine on a paper book, as well.

How to Fix a Board Book's Spine

I have a foam puzzle book that I purchased for my grandchildren many years ago. This fun board book has proven to be a constant favorite for toddlers who visit my home. Unfortunately, one of my grands loved it so much that the spine broke, and it needs some TLC.

At first, this repair appeared to be a difficult one to make, but it proved to be quite easy because I used the correct glue for the project. The most important qualities the glue needed were strength and flexibility when dried. The book repair glue I finally decided to use was tacky glue. It is not pH neutral, but that is ok for this repair project. At least I did not have to use tape to hold this book together.

Below you will find step-by-step photos detailing the spine repair I made to this much-loved children's book. The technique can also be used to repair a spine on a paper book, as well. (By the way, teachers might find this page helpful for their in class library.)

Note: For antique or valuable books, please consult a true professional who is an expert. I am neither! I am just a former librarian who learned some nice tricks to repair books that get used every day.

This foam book cover needs some fixing!

This foam book cover needs some fixing!

Supplies Needed to Repair a Book Spine

  • An appropriate glue: For this specific repair, I used Aleene's Original Tacky Glue even though it is not pH neutral. This glue has a wonderfully long shelf life if you keep the cap in place when not in use. It is a strong, thick PVC glue that has many craft uses.
  • Waxed paper: OK, since the Tacky Glue is not pH neutral, here is a natural product: If You Care Unbleached Waxed Paper. Use waxed paper or newspaper under the book you are repairing to protect the work surface. Waxed paper is also used inside the book after you apply the glue.
  • Toothpick or thin brush: Toothpicks are used to apply the glue. Bamboo is a renewable source, which is why I'm recommending bamboo toothpicks. If you do not use a toothpick, remember to clean up your brushes with warm soap and water.
  • Heavy book or object to use as a weight

Why I Didn't Use Tape

I did not want to use tape to fix the book because I would need a tape that was at least 2 inches wide. Packing tape would have been the obvious choice if I wanted to go that route. I did not want to do that because if even a little bit of the tape became loose, a child would pick at it. (You know that I am right!) If I had used cloth tape, the images would have been covered up and spoiled the look of this colorful book.

Step 1: Assess the Damage

I need to reattach the purple foam square cover (on the left in the image above) to the rest of the book by gluing the spine side of the page to the next page.

You can see the spine cover between the two halves of the book. It is still attached to the book and the front cover piece.

Each page of the foam book is about 1/4 inch thick. Only the top purple "page" or the cover needed to be reattached to the rest of the book.

Squeeze out the glue to fix the spine.

Squeeze out the glue to fix the spine.

Step 2: Squeeze Out Some Glue on a Separate Surface

Protect your work surface—no, I did not put glue on the tablecloth! I used a piece of plastic laminate under the book and squeezed out a quarter-sized glob of glue on it.

You can used waxed paper under the book or a paper plate, too, and squirt the glue on it. As it turned out, I had squeezed out more than enough glue. A dime-sized glob would have been enough.

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I chose tacky glue because it is very thick and strong. (I also had it on hand.) Elmer's School Glue would have been too thin, in my opinion.

Applying the glue to the book's spine. A little bit goes a long way.

Applying the glue to the book's spine. A little bit goes a long way.

Step 3: Apply the Glue to the Spine With a Toothpick

Using a toothpick, I applied the glue just to the torn edges all down the length of the spine. Use enough, but do not go overboard. A little bit goes a long way. Apply the glue to both pages.

Can I Use a Brush Instead of a Toothpick?

You can use a thin brush to apply the glue if you have one—just be sure to wash the glue out of the bristles using warm water and mild soap.

Hold the glued pieces together.

Hold the glued pieces together.

Step 4: Put the Two Sides of the Book Together

After I applied the glue to both edges of pages of the book, I carefully put the two pieces together along the edges where the paper was torn.

Hold the repaired book open.

Hold the repaired book open.

Step 5: Hold the Book Open

I held the book open, gently pushing the pages together, and held it in place for about 5 minutes. I do this because the book is designed to be opened; I did not want the pages glued together in a closed position at the beginning of the repair.

The photo shows me holding the book open while the glue sets. This step makes sure that the book will open with no stress to the spine after the repair is completed.

Using waxed paper for spine repair on a book.

Using waxed paper for spine repair on a book.

Step 6: Put Waxed Paper at the Spine Fold

I then took a piece of waxed paper and put it right up even with the fold in the book. (Do you understand? See the images to get a visual.)

Using waxed paper along the spine before you close it keeps the glue from finding its way onto the page where you do not want it. You do not want to glue the pages together, just where the spine fold is located.

Put the paper right up in the fold and hold it there when you close the book. Reposition it if necessary.

Put a "weight" on the closed book; here, the glue bottle is acting as a weight.

Put a "weight" on the closed book; here, the glue bottle is acting as a weight.

Step 7: Put a "Weight" on the Closed Book

I used the bottle of glue as my "weight" since the foam book was not heavy. You can use another book, too—just as long as it is a little heavier.

Just make sure that the book getting repaired is not disturbed while it is drying. To be safe, let the book dry for about an hour before removing the weight.

Repair the spine cover.

Repair the spine cover.

Step 8: Finish and Set

If you look closely at the spine of the book in the lower left, you can see that the spine cover is torn. I used the toothpick to apply a small amount of glue and then gently pressed the torn edges together.

Patience! Hold you finger there for about a minute until the glue sets just a little.

Enjoy Your Repaired Board Book!

I do not expect this foam book to be around forever and ever—it is not valuable, but my grandchildren love it and constantly get it off the shelf to look at and play with. The child who accidentally broke it was heartbroken. Now, she will be very happy that I repaired it.

Please feel free to leave a comment and ask any questions. I will be very happy to respond. After all, it is my goal in life to "save the world, one book at a time"!

Further Reading

Feel free to make a comment or ask me a book repair question;

Kaitlyn on November 30, 2019:

I have a baby book with hard pages and I lost the spine, the pages also it separated in the middle. Dont fancy buying things to fix it but want to use it again so my next kid can use it for potty training. Help would be appreciated.

Tiffany on September 04, 2018:

Thank you for this!!! My toddler loves his books & is quickly destroying them through his natural curiosity & eagerness to learn. Every other tutorial I found required several specialty items, but this something anyone can do! I'm definitely going to try this!

Ruthi on January 30, 2014:

Thank you for an excellent tutorial for repairing children's books! I have shared this on my Ruthi Reads Books For Kids page on Facebook. Anything that keeps a good book around a little longer is a good thing!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on July 27, 2013:

Your repair instructions are very clear. I appreciate that you care so much about books and how your grandchildren feel about their favorites. This book reminds me of the Velveteen Rabbit. More precious for having been loved into a state of worn edges and a partially broken spine. Makes the repair that much more meaningful. Thank you for caring enough to give this treasured book an extended life.