I’ll never forget watching my daughters learn how to walk. In classic form, they each took their own very different approaches to the task. One practiced diligently, holding our hands without letting go until she was certain that she could complete the job, and then off she went on a mission. The other took longer to try, but when she did try, she fell often until she got it right and refused to hold our hands. One of the most magical parts of parenthood is watching our children learn how to do something new. We cry tears of joy when we watch our children walk and laugh for the first time.
The same sort of magic can be a part of reading if we forgo our anxiety about when a child should begin and look at reading as a skill that we are always perfecting throughout the years. I’m not suggesting that you ignore something concerning about your child’s learning, because we know that early intervention is the highly effective. Yet, it’s a gross understatement to say that schools’ and parents’ desires have taken a life of their own, and to expect all children to be reading at age five simply isn’t developmentally appropriate.
So, where to start? Well, suggesting ABC books is pretty obvious. But if you are like me and want to lose your mind reading the same flip ABC book a million times over while constantly singing the LeapFrog “Every letter makes a sound” song that’s been stuck in your head for months, then it’s time to cut yourself some slack and find books that you will actually enjoy reading to your children.
Here are a few that I know you will appreciate.
Work: An Occupational ABC by Kellen Hatanaka.
This creative book takes kids through the alphabet by introducing a fun career for each letter. “N is for naval architect, O is for oceanographer, and P is for postal worker.” It will have adults dreaming of a midlife career move and little ones thinking of the many possibilities, like flying a plane or climbing a mountain. Not to mention every image looks like a print that could be hung in your living room.
ABCs on Wheels by Ramon Olivera. Ok, I know I said that ABC flip books get old, but this one provides a fresh perspective. For all transportation lovers out there (meaning basically all children), this book identifies the parts of moving objects or unusual vehicles. A is for Axle and D is for Double-decker.
I purchased this book when I started my very first Reading Specialist job, as a celebratory buy of sorts. That year it became particularly special to one Kindergarten student who was overly exhausted by the idea of learning letters and sounds. At the end of each session, we would look at this book as his special treat to help him get excited about learning together. It always worked.
LMNO Peas by Keith Baker. Told from the perspective of several little peas, this very cute rhyming book explores the many hobbies and careers in life.
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz. While not necessarily tailored for beginning readers, this book is an incredibly interesting read for adults! It can be read aloud to kids by reading the names as, “A is for Angela Davis, B is for Billie Jean King and C is for Carol Burnett…”
An Excessive Alphabet: Avalanches of As to Zillions of Zs by Judi Barrett. From the author of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," this book has lots of teaching points. Beyond the letters of the alphabet, it works as a fun "Where’s Waldo" search and acts as a great tool for vocabulary words. (Sidenote: My own four-year-old thought it was absolutely hilarious.)
Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag: 31 Objects from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum by Skira Rizzoli. Illustrated by the fascinating artist, Maira Kalman (I dare you not to fall down a rabbit hole while looking through her work), this book features objects from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. It also makes a great gift for both children and adults.
Pete is hungry. He’ll eat anything in sight including the "...bouncing ball that belongs to Uncle Bennie’s dog Buster." A cleverly written and humorous take on the alphabet.
This book’s pages are cut into the shape of each letter. The colors and the thickness of the book appeal to a wide range of ages from babies to preschoolers and even elementary aged children.
Each page contains a large letter of the alphabet and inside it several small, hidden illustrations. C contains objects like camel, crown and clarinet. It also help kids think deeper with objects like cube and clover which they might first identify as square or shamrock.
Now that we all agree there is nothing wrong with dreading the thought of reading the same ABC book time and time again, let’s look for more ways to take the pressure off of parents. Do you have any ABC suggestions or any board books you love?