Sunday, October 3, 2010

ABC Books

The beginning of kindergarten is a swell time to dive into the alphabet. And what better way than ABC books?

Learning the alphabet can be tricky for young children because language is a system of arbitrary symbols.  As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet "that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet".

We assign meaning to letters which are simply random squiggles to young children. Understanding these squiggles is part of our developmental process in both reading and writing.

ABC books approach the task of ameliorating children's mastery in different ways. Some, like the fabulous Museum ABC from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, serve as list books.

In this book A is for Apple, B is for Boat, C is for Cat and so on. The exquisite selling point here though is that each letter is accompanied by a detail (small portion) from a selection of art work by Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Stuart, Lichtenstein, etc. It is beautifully done and helps children begin to connect letters and sounds.

Other ABC books take a more interactive approach. They challenge the reader look closely at the illustrations to find the letters hidden there.

Pigs From A-Z by Arthur Geisert is one of my favorite examples of this (How could it miss? There are adorable pigs everywhere!). This is akin to the I Spy books that keep children and adults searching.  This book reinforces letter knowledge and helps solidify letter identification.

A step further along the ABC continuum are the storybooks.  It is in this realm that many authors/illustrators have found a wide audience. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault with illustrations by Lois Ehlert is catchy and popular.  I like it because it connects upper and lowercase letters with a simple rhythmic beat.
Another winner is Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood.  The lowercase letters are having a fun filled jaunt on their way to school when the dot from the letter i decides to play an annoying little game of hide-and-seek.  The other letters conspire to find other symbols to replace her (like a star, a heart) but the mischievous dot reappears to claim her rightful place.  The letters arrive in alphabetical order in time for school.  Also of interest are Alphabet Rescue and Alphabet Mystery.

Finally, given that I have a soft spot in me wee little heart for a certain monkey I must mention Curious George Learns the Alphabet by H.A. Rey. This book is unique in that it helps children learn letters by focusing on the shapes themselves.  The letter F becomes a fireman, L becomes a Lion and K a kangaroo.  Research seems to support the merits of such an approach.

The text is designed to promote phonological awareness and sensitivity to initial letter sounds through alliteration.

Sample text; The small h is a horse. He is happy because he has heaps of hay. George had his own horse - a hobby horse. 

The first "h" in words like happy and heaps are highlighted in color to reinforce the commonality of sound.  Letters and text are provided for both upper and lowercase letters.

So there you have the ABC's of ABC books!

For a cyber spin on ABC click here.


mouse (aka kimy) said...

i still have a few abc books from when emma was little. they are timeless and it's amazing how creative abc books can be.

as you know i'm very fond of having fun with the alphabet!!!!

abc it's as easy as 123 and as simple as do-re-mi!! oh no a new ear worm!!!!

Gary said...

Kimy - There are so many out there and I realized after I posted this that I should have included some sign language ABC books - although one is featured on my sidebar - and a link to your ABC themed posts for October. I have since corrected that last oversight.

Barbara said...

You have really pulled this together -- from A to Z! I remember once making a quilt from ABC squares the children made, with each child getting a different letter. It was not a very professional quilting job, but it brought in about $600 in the school auction.

I'm just gearing up to introduce young Margalen to the fact that the piano keys have letter names. We have talked about the "C" keys, but the others will be introduced later this week. How's your piano project coming along?

Gary said...

Barbara - I start piano lessons on Saturday. I dug out my music theory books from HS and some old piano books (for beginners) from my previous round of piano lessons. One of these days I will be able to accompany myself on the piano. I don't think I'll ever be a natural but I do want to be able to accomplish that.

An ABC quilt made with children sounds amazing.

la bellina mammina said...

I've missed following your blog!

I've been so busy at the moment - my young one just started Kindy and this article's really helpful!

Am going to find the time to update my blog - so much has happened! Hope you're well Gary. x

Gary said...

Bellina! I have missed you. I am looking forward to reading what you have been doing since we were last in contact. Great to see you on FYB again. xo

la bellina mammina said...

yeah... give me a few more days to sort the blog out - add all those friends I've made here then I'll be up and running.

Thanks for being patient! x



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