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Now is approximately the time of year when most schools would be releasing students for summer break, but this year, many students have been home since about March, which may make this year’s “summer slide” a bit more slippery. Not that we feel that parents can’t be good teachers, in fact the opposite is true, and that is why we want to remind you that instead of stressing, keep it simple this summer by playing with letters and reading alphabet books. With the plethora of alphabet books available, keeping literacy at the forefront is a breeze while also encouraging reading for both the youngest child as well as the middle schooler.
The alphabet book is an excellent teaching tool starting with the youngest child on up through the middle school aged child. In an alphabet book, the 26 letters are addressed in a manner created by the author and illustrator. The simplest ones use common symbols to match each letter with an object, such as A is for Apple, B is for Ball etc. Objects are selected to match the true sound of the letter making not only a visual connection to the word but also the beginning sound that letter makes, building phonemic awareness. Other alphabet books go a step further exploring various topics and themes often with a rhyming verse, rich language, unique vocabulary and some with a humorous bent. These books are excellent for the budding reader and can reach a level of sophistication that even the middle school child will appreciate.
As children get older, alphabet books can still be appreciated though on a different level and interest. Instead of the basic, look for those that encourage higher level thinking, challenging children to think about letters differently. Check out your local library or YouTube for a copy of Tomorrow’s Alphabet by George Shannon where “A is for seed, tomorrow’s apple and B is for eggs, tomorrow’s birds.” You might even try placing a blank sheet of paper over the right side of the book before revealing what the letter stands for, giving children an opportunity to work on making inferences, an important skill for reading comprehension. You might even work with older children to make their own similar alphabet book challenging them to put on their thinking caps and think outside the box, using imagination and creativity.
Another way to utilize alphabet books is through your child’s own interests, using them as a first resource for research. Many alphabet books provide a wealth of information in a focused and easily digestible way for early learners yet don’t talk down to the middle grade child, working well for multiple age children. If you are reading aloud to a child, much of it might depend on your own willingness to ask and answer questions and engage in a discussion, offering a richer learning experience. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. That’s what Google is for! Also, encourage your child to engage in further research either through books specific to that subject or online. Excellent interest-based alphabet books to consider might include C is for Caboose: Riding the Rails from A to Z by Traci N. Todd, A is for Aviation: The ABC’s of airplanes, spaceships, rockets and more! by J. Heitsch and don’t forget to include one of the 22 titles by Jerry Pallotta and be sure to check out some of the 75 alphabet books from Sleeping Bear Press that grow with a child as each book contains illustrations, a poem to represent each letter for the young reader and an informative sidebar for the older reader. The Sleeping Bear Press website helpfully offers teacher’s guides and activities for their books. For the child that loves to do research, offer a Venn Diagram where they can compare and contrast information or ideas. This will be an invaluable future skill for school.
Don’t forget to feed the creative genius that might lurk within and include art as a theme offering Museum ABC by The NY Metropolitan Museum of Art,ABC’s of Art by Sabrina Hahn and for fun The Steampunk Alphabet by Nathanael Iwafa.
Consult our Alphabet Books list for additional titles to explore!
As you read alphabet books, be sure to include time to play with letters in fun and creative ways. Ideas might include:
Knowing the names of the letters of the alphabet, recognizing individual sounds or phonemes,
learning how books work and the relationship between text and illustrations, and understanding the stories that are read aloud are all building blocks of early literacy leading to phonemic awareness, fluency and reading comprehension. Manipulating letters through games and puzzles, hearing stories read aloud and looking at and/or reading books this summer will aid in literacy acquisition or further the development of already existing skills. Letters and words are all around us. Find unique and creative ways to use them.
-Kate @ BTBL
We are three generations that seek a way to get back to basics. It’s not that we eschew technology, but sometimes simpler is better, especially in raising our children. Mom was a reading teacher, Amanda is an early childhood educator and Kate a children’s literature specialist and former school librarian along with the latest additions, a daughter (now 4) for Kate, and two sons (now 1 and a newborn) for Amanda. We advocate reading aloud, the simple toys that use imagination and encourage creativity and learning in the kitchen, which can be a fun mess but also teaches life skills. Join us in raising healthy, happy, inquisitive and intelligent children.
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.