Sunday, October 3, 2010
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.
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.
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.