The first alphabet book for children, written by Kate Greenaway in the late 1800s, was titled A Apple Pie (Greenaway, 1993). It was a story alphabet book about children who baked and shared an apple pie. ABC books have come a long way since then! Many of today’s alphabet books are visually enticing and immediately draw children into the world of letters and sounds through their formats, illustrations, and language. The subjects for modern ABC books range from humorous stories, riddles, and rhymes to concept acquisition and information about the natural world. Young children are invited to become involved in the text while developing letter recognition and phonemic and phonological awareness, predictors of children’s ability to learn to read (Adams, 1990; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Alphabet books can be used creatively to draw attention to letters and the sounds they represent, giving children numerous opportunities to play with language.
Be selective when choosing ABC books. For the youngest children, look for letters that stand apart on the page, objects that are common, and subjects that are familiar (Huck, Hepler, Hickman, & Kiefer, 2001). Older preschoolers may enjoy more complex illustrations, depending on their prior experiences with the alphabet.
Alphabet letters are coupled with clever, humorous illustrations in Helen Oxenbury’s ABC of Things (Oxenbury, 1983). For each letter, both uppercase and lowercase letters are given, accompanied by one or more objects that represent the letter. Maisy’s ABC (Cousins, 1995) is one in a series of Maisy-the-mouse books that have become favorites with preschoolers. Bold primary colors, cartoonlike figures, flaps to lift, and tabs to pull combine to make this ABC book appealing.
A wildly popular ABC book is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Martin & Archambault, 1989). As the letters go up and fall off the coconut tree, the musical cadence of the verse cajoles readers of all ages to join in. Alphabetics (MacDonald, 1986) is a playful and creatively designed alphabet book in which the letters tumble around and emerge as part of the picture they represent. For example, “n” turns upside down through a series of pictures and becomes a “nest.” The letters are clearly recognizable, and the objects stand out on a white background, making it easy to identify them.
Two early childhood students used Lois Ehlert’s book, Eating the Alphabet (1989) as the basis for a kindergarten lesson on the alphabet. As they read the book, many children chimed in with comments on their favorite foods that were featured in the book. Some of the foods, however, were new to the kindergarteners and required short explanations from the early childhood students. After reading the book and talking about the foods, the children illustrated their own alphabet book of foods. At the end of the week, a tasting party was held to try out a few of the foods mentioned in the book. The children tasted the foods, dictated describing words, illustrated their choices, and then graphed them on a class chart.
A Is for Africa (Onyefulu, 1993) is a culturally specific alphabet book for older preschoolers. The author, who is from Africa, writes a short explanation about the book at the beginning, accompanied by an outline map of Africa. The photographs for each illustration capture the landscape, people, customs, foods, and housing in Nigeria, and represent the diversity throughout the continent.
- A My Name Is Alice (Bayer & Kellogg, 1992)
- “A” You’re Adorable (Kaye, Wise, & Lippman, 1998)
- Action Alphabet (Rotner, 1996)
- Allison’s Zinnia (Lobel, 1990)
- Alphabet City (Johnson, 1995)
- Alfie’s ABC (Hughes, 1998)
- Appalachian ABC’s (Hall, 1998)
- The Butterfly Alphabet (Sandved, 1996)
- A Farmer’s Alphabet (Azarian, 1981)
- Handsigns: A Sign Language Alphabet (Fain, 1993)
- K Is for Kiss Good Night: A Bedtime Alphabet (Sardegna, 1994)
- K Is for Kwanzaa (Ford, 1997)
- Mary Had a Little Lamb (Hale, 1990)
- Navajo ABC: A Dine Alphabet (Tapahonso, 1995)
- Old Black Fly (Aylesworth, 1992)
- On Market Street (Lobel, 1981)
- Zoe and Her Zebra (Beaton, 1999)
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