I have a daughter, age 4 at the time, now age 5, who just loves to color with crayons. Last year we were finding ourselves every Sunday morning on the computer printing up web pages from PBSkids, Nick Jr. and Sesame Street. Then we would take them to church for a quiet activity for Sacrament meeting. Every once in a while I would try to go to LDS.org to find some coloring pages. Type in “coloring pages” or “pages to color” in the site search engine and the list that comes up is not very user friendly – mostly the search results are not even coloring pages. After clicking my way through several online issues of the Friend magazine, I realized what the problem is. The actual words “coloring page” does not appear on those pages in LDS.org. Search engines cannot read pictures; they only read text, therefore the search engine is incapable of rendering search results for “coloring pages.”
For a while I would save my favorite pictures to my hard drive. I only had about a dozen saved; I would print them over and over, and my daughter got tired of them. Then I started a Word document with the hyperlinks and coloring page descriptions, making a greater choice of coloring pages without having to take the time to hunt them down each time or save them to my computer. I started thinking it would be fun to post it on the internet since web publishing is something of a hobby of mine. I needed a web publishing Sabbath-day hobby, because I love publishing so much I can’t keep off the computer, not even on Sunday. “LDS Coloring Pages” seemed to be made to order: performing a service for others on gospel-related topics. I chose Squidoo because I felt it was a better platform for this kind of project than a blog, and at that time (January 2007), I did not want to commit to the expense of a domain name registration. I did not think “LDS Coloring Pages” could get more than 100 visitors a month, because that is all my keyword research tool seemed to indicate there would be. I am delighted to report (and shocked) that my Squidoo LDS Coloring Pages (http://www.squidoo.com/lds-coloring-pages) is receiving 3500 visitors a month.
Now my “LDS Coloring Pages” (my list or index, I mean) is in a state of transition. I have purchased the domain name LDScoloringpages.net and put up a website. I have transferred all the information from the Squidoo page over to the website. In time I may delete the Squidoo page, when I feel people who have bookmarked it have had time to notice the new website. I have been a bit unhappy with some of the advertisements and offers that Squidoo puts on the page. Also, one lens or page seems a bit small for what I am trying to accomplish. With my own website I can add as many pages as I wish. Also, with my own website I can banish ads that do not appeal to me, and earn a small stipend, no great fortune, but enough to cover the costs of publishing. However, I am grateful to Squidoo for the free space. I see how they are a great, free laboratory for testing a new idea on the internet.
When I first started my LDS Coloring Pages list, I was flipping through my old paper copies of The Friend, noting the page numbers and titles (if any) then going to the LDS.org website. I am working in reverse chronological order. Around the 2002 Friend issues, I ran out of real copies, and since then I have been clicking my way through the past issues of the Friend online. For each coloring page I find, I note the title, the month and year, page number, and write a short description. I then paste the URL into a hyperlink, so the visitor can click directly through to the web page on the LDS.org website. I would have liked to have copied the images so a person could visually browse them, but I am certain that would be a violation of copyright. I work on adding to the list on Sunday night when the children are asleep. I usually add about a half a year’s worth of coloring pages per Sunday. I plan on going all the way back to 1971, because that’s how far the Friend issues go on LDS.org. At the rate I am going I should finish in about a year or let’s say June 2008. Maybe then I will begin to browse the Primary manuals. Interestingly, beginning with the January 2007 Friend, you will find each coloring page labeled “coloring page.” I believe the staff at LDS.org and the Church publications have been briefed on how to make their work more search engine friendly.
My Squidoo pen name is “momof7,” and indeed, I have seven children ages 27, 25, 23, 21, 18, 5, and 2 ½… three boys and four girls. Mostly the purposes of the coloring pages I print off are to keep the two young ones, a girl and a boy, happy in Sacrament meeting. I have also used my coloring pages list to compose a class presentation in Primary. I currently teach CTR6. It is hard to come up with ways for the children to truly participate in a class presentation. What I did last time was print out a dozen or so coloring pages two weeks beforehand. Our theme was “how following the prophet helps me to follow the Savior in faith.” The coloring pages depicted teachings of the prophet like prayer, scripture study, gardening, missionary work, kindness, etc. I let the children choose and color their page in class. During the class presentation the following Sunday, each child showed their picture, and with my promptings, talked about it. Then we all sang, “Follow the Prophet.” You know I must be obsessing about LDS Coloring Pages a little bit. When my visiting teacher was giving a message about testimony, the first thing that came to my mind was “oh, there’s a coloring page about that.”
I very much appreciate the encouragement and kind words that I have received in my guestbook. The majority have been from guests to Squidoo, and not from the Squidoo community. I assume people have been finding my Squidoo page through the search engines or by word of mouth. I was surprised to discover that in less than a week of announcing my website LDScoloringpages.net, the website ranks 3rd in Google for the search term “lds coloring pages.” The Squidoo page now ranks 5th.
Feeling like I am becoming rather familiar by now with The Friend publication, I must say I am truly grateful to the staff of The Friend and the talented illustrators for creating these things for our children. I am grateful to the LDS.org staff for publishing an incredibly huge archive of the publications of the Church. We are so fortunate to live in the “Information Age” and to have these positive choices before us.
~~Matia (aka “momof7″ on Squidoo)