The readers, in turn, according to Jeanne H. Chaney, reading and language arts teacher, receive four benefits. These are 1) an introduction to or an overview of a topic, 2) a stimulus for research, 3) oral and written language development opportunities, and 4) multicultural awareness (Chaney 98).
I intend to look at a quantity of alphabet books in greater detail and investigate these different forms and their intended benefits. My opinion is that alphabet books have much more to offer children than just teaching them their ABC’s and would be beneficial to children even after their preschool years.
By definition, an alphabet book in the English language is a picture book that shows the sequence of the letters A to Z. Generally they are concise, rarely exceeding 60 pages and have a consistent organizational pattern, i.e., they almost always go from A to Z. In a few instances, they may go from Z to A, but they are predictable in either instance. Alphabet books are usually focused around a specific concept or theme. The illustrations in alphabet books normally play a major role in the book. In fact, the text and the illustrations must work together in order for the child to gain any benefit (Carter 366).
The most recognized form of ABC book is the simple alphabet book that introduces letter recognition to pre-readers. These are uncluttered books using few pictures and few words. They might show the letter in both upper case and lower case. Text that includes both upper case and lower case letters gives children “a true picture of our written language” (Carter 366-372). Textual literacy is one of the competencies children must master before learning to read and includes goals such as the ability to distinguish upper and lowercase letters, knowledge of the direction of print in English, and the concept of word, sentence and paragraph, among others (Camp 300).
Learning the letters and their sounds is considered one of a number of key learnings in early literacy programs. “Alphabet books also can support development of phonemic awareness, the insight that the speech stream consists of small units of sound – phonemes – and that these units can be manipulated” (Yopp 414). Once children understand the sounds of letters and that they can be moved around, they understand how their language works and may begin to decode words on their own.
ABC Letters in the Library likewise uses alliteration as follows: “Dense dictionaries unravel difficult terms. Encyclopedias teach the most earnest of learners. Fun-filled ghost stories frighten and shock”. Clearly, these words are much too difficult for a preschooler to try to read, but they can still hear the letter sounds being repeated over and over. Older children will appreciate the more difficult aspects.
Another stellar example of an alphabet book combining alliteration and onomatopoeia is The Jazzy Alphabet. For the letter ‘P’ it reads, “P’s on piano, pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitta-pat, plink!”
Visual alphabet books allow readers to become involved in them. If they contain visual puzzles, children will be interested in looking at them again and again. It may be read alone, but more often than not, the child will want to share it with a friend to see if they can solve the puzzle too. ”...Books with visual puzzles also help students to become natural observers. Observational skills serve students well as they learn to notice and appreciate nature and the world around them” (Lickleig 28). Alphabet books that fit into this category include Look Once Look Twice that shows a close up pattern of some object on one page allowing children to guess before revealing what the object is on the next page. Eye Spy: A Mysterious Alphabet introduces homonyms, homophones, and encourages prediction. Whatley’s Quest: An Alphabet Adventure encourages readers to find as many objects beginning with the named letter as possible within the picture. Because most of these books involve visual and verbal games, they invite active reading and discussion, and many invite extension or creative response (Davies 19).
Camp, Donna. “The Abecedarius: Soldier of Literacy.” Childhood Education 66 (1990): 298-302.
Carter, Betty. “Books in the Classroom: Alphabet Books.” Horn Book Magazine 70
(May/June 1994): 366-372.
Chaney, Jeanne H. “Alphabet books: Resources for learning.” The Reading Teacher 47 (1993): 96-102.
Davies, Anne. “B is for Book Buddies: Alphabet Books in the Classroom.” Book Links 13 (May 2004): 19.
Engelfried, Steven. “Artful Alphabets.” School Library Journal 52 (2006): 6
Lickleig, Mary J. “Visual Link: Books with Visual Puzzles,” School Library Media Activities Monthly 12 (1996): 28-31.
Neuman, Susan B. and Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp. “Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children.” Early Childhood Today 16 (October 2001): 10-12.
Thurston, Ralph. “Hitler Mobilizes “Mother Goose.” The Nation 144 (March 20, 1937): 317-318.
Yopp, Ruth Helen and Hallie Kay Yopp. “Sharing Informational Text with Young Children.” The Reading Teacher 53 (February 2000): 410-423.
Alphabet Books Cited
AlphaKids. The Alpha Kids Alphabet Book. Littleton: Houghton, 2000.
Aylesworth, Jim. Old Black Fly. New York: Henry Holt, 1992.
Bourke, Linda. Eye Spy: A Mysterious Alphabet. San Francisco: Chronicle, 1991.
Cox, Paul. Abstract Alphabet: A Book of Animals. San Francisco: Chronicle, 1997.
Ehlert, Lois. Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z. New York: Harcourt, 1989.
Farmer, Bonnie. ABC Letters in the Library. Montreal: Lobster, 2005.
Floca, Brian. The Racecar Alphabet. New York: Atheneum, 2003.
Grimes, Nikki. C is for City. New York: Lothrup, 1995.
Hausman, Gerald. Turtle Island ABC: A Gathering of Native American Symbols. New York: Harper, 1994.
Heller, Nicholas. Ogres! Ogres Ogres!: A Feasting Frenzy from A to Z. New York: Greenwillow, 1999.
Jay, Alison. ABC: A Child’s First Alphabet Book. New York: Dutton, 2003.
Johnson, Stephen T. Alphabet City. New York: Viking, 1995.
Jordan, Martin and Tanis Amazon Alphabet. New York: Kingfisher, 1996.
Kaufman, Dr. Les. Alligators to Zooplankton. New York: Franklin, 1991.
MacDonald, Suse. Alphabatics. New York: Aladdin, 1992.
Marshall, Janet. Look Once Look Twice. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1995.
Martin, Bill Jr. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. New York: Alladin, 1989.
Metaxas, Eric. The Birthday ABC. New York: Simon, 1995.
Milich, Zoran. The City ABC Book. New York: Kids Can, 2001.
Paul, Ann Whitford. Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet. New York: Harper, 1991.
Pelletier, David. The Graphic Alphabet. New York: Orchard, 1996.
Rice, James. Cowboy Alphabet: for grown ups and young ‘uns too. Gretna: Pelican, 1977.
Shahan, Sherry. The Jazzy Alphabet. New York: Philomel, 2002.
Sierra, Judy. There’s a Zoo in Room 22. San Diego: Harcourt. 2000.
Sloat, Teri. Patty’s Pumpkin Patch. New York: Putnam: 1999.
Sneed, Brad. Picture a Letter. New York: Fogelman, 2002.
Whatley, Bruce and Rosie Smith. Whatley’s Quest. Sydney: Harper, 1994.
Williams, Laura Ellen. ABC Kids. New York: Philomel, 2000.
Zabar, Abbie. Alphabet Soup. New York: Tabor & Chang, 1990.
To see more ABC books go to : http://childrensbooksguide.com/alphabet