Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

I love a good alphabet book to help kids get practice identifying, naming, tracing, and saying sounds for letters. But they are surprisingly hard to find. 

Many alphabet books are designed with older readers in mind, putting more emphasis on specialized vocabulary and background knowledge than basic letter forms and the most common sounds they represent. 

Some ABC books feature show-stopping illustrations that distract prereaders from paying attention to the letters at all. Others have fonts that are so faint or frilly that it’s hard to see the specific features that set one letter apart from another—the letters’ lines, curves, and humps. 

Still others give too much attention to silent letters, unusual pronunciations, and other content that prereaders aren’t ready for. These may be great tools to work on spelling and reading skills with budding readers, but they’re not what you need to teach your child the alphabet.

The best alphabet books for teaching preschoolers their ABCs (and any kids who are still learning the fundamentals of reading) feature clear, bold uppercase letter forms, minimal text, streamlined illustrations, and words that begin with the most common sounds for the target letters.

There’s no perfect alphabet book—for example, very few feature the most frequently used letter sounds for every letter, as is ideal for beginning learners. But below is our list of some favorite ABC books to get you started. What’s more, each of these titles, besides giving the letters their due, also has a compelling hook that will make your little one want to read them again and again. 

ABC Books that Highlight A Letter or Two

B is for Baby

By Atinuke, Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

There’s so much to love in this little board book, which features an adorable baby girl going about her day within the fold of a loving, affectionate family in West Africa. Simple yet vibrant illustrations depict the joyous play, exploration, and togetherness of a baby’s day with mom, from touching her toes and sitting in mom’s lap to playing outdoors. It also provides a colorful window into the perhaps unfamiliar terrain of Baobab trees, baboons, and roads shared by buses and livestock. The letter B is capitalized throughout the book, giving ample occasion to attend to it. In a few cases, it’s paired with R, which opens up opportunities for adults to introduce the idea of letter blends, as in breakfast, brother, and bridge. Even the illustrator’s last name—Brooksbank—is on theme.


The Olphabet:

“O” No! An Alphabet Revolt

By Jess m. Brallier, Illustrated by Nichola Cowdery

I adore this unconventional alphabet book, which narrates what happens when the letter O has a bit of an identity crisis and decides it would like a spot at the front of the alphabet. Brightly told and illustrated, this little tale soars with bold 3D representations of the letters, including little eyes and mouths that give them personality and expression without obscuring their shapes. The text itself makes reference to the letter O’s circular shape a couple of times, so parents get a good nudge to trace and talk about the letter’s form. (This is key for helping kids identify it later and write it themselves.) Featured words in the story, such as octopus, one, oodles, orange, and OK illustrate various sounds that O makes, creating ample opportunity for discussion. And while O is the star in this joyous romp through the alphabet, all featured letters are shown in bold purple font in the body of the story, so N, Q (described as O’s “tailed twin”) and additional letters get some love, too. I can’t recommend this full-hearted, full-circle story of an ambitious letter jockeying for position and navigating friendships highly enough. I recommend it for every little one’s bookshelf.


Q and U

Call it Quits

By Stef Wade, Illustrated by Jorge Martin

Q is a special letter that little ones are unlikely to encounter without its sidekick U. Together, they represent the sound /kw/ and show up in familiar words like quick, quit, and queen. But it’s worth taking some time—a picture book’s worth at least—to point out the pairing and bring it to the forefront of kids’ attention. This silly tale of letters gone rogue recounts U’s quest for a little alone time. The fallout from the rift between Q and U ripples and roars through the alphabet, until the pair of letters reunite in a satisfying conclusion that brings an air of quiet to the tumult. This is the kind of story that makes letters stick. Your little one will never see Q in the same light again.


ABC Books for Teaching the Full Alphabet

An Excessive Alphabet

Avalanches of As to Zillions of Zs

By Judi Barrett, Illustrated By Dan Barrett

This picture book builds in a bit of number sense, right alongside a major dose of letter awareness. Each attention-grabbing page is saturated with different instances of the target letters (mostly uppercase print, but occasionally lowercase or cursive examples), making them the main characters in a rollicking scene of excess. Imagine a forest of towering Ks being scaled and circled by kangaroos, kayaks, koalas, knights, and kings with a sizable caption below stating simply, “King-size Ks.” Or piles of Ps interspersed with peas, parrots, pizza, pretzels, and pens. While normally I dissuade parents from teaching from books with busy illustrations, this one is an exception, because the illustrations highlight instances of the letter that kids can point to and drag a finger along. Plus, the caption provides a clear, traceable uppercase version of the letter alongside a well-chosen featured word.  (All but three—endless, island, and oodles—use the most frequent letter sounds.) And an image search at the end builds in even more practice by prompting kids to search for certain illustrations within the pages of the book, for example, to find the volcano on the V page.


C is for Country

by Lil Nas X, Illustrated by Tehodore Taylor III

This alphabet book takes the classic “A is for…” format for a spin through a day in the life of the young boy who grew up to be a Grammy award-winning country-meets-hip hop superstar. With bright, colorful illustrations and a clear sunup-to-sundown timeline, it gives little readers an engaging tour of country life in Georgia, complete with boots, guitars, hats, and Lil Nas X’s signature flair. F in this adventure is for fringe, feathers, and fake fur. The tale gets an A for letter-sound correspondences, with 25 out of 26 letters presenting the most frequent sound for the letter. The one exception is that he went with thankful for T, which features the digraph TH instead of a distinct /t/ sound. I would have chosen tractor or turkey to highlight the basic /t/ sound and a concrete object word versus a feeling, but hey—we can never emphasize gratitude too much.


D is for Dress Up

By Maria Carluccio

This beautifully illustrated ABC book focuses on sharing fashion-related vocabulary with little ones. The featured words are mostly concrete objects likely to be in kids’ homes or everyday experiences—aprons, bows, costumes, hats, and glasses, for example. I love the clarity of the text, which features just a large uppercase version of the target letter and a word or two to represent it.  The standalone letter is large enough to trace its lines, dots, and curves with a finger, and the example words feature the lowercase version of the letter in case parents want to introduce both cases. (Tip: Focus on just the uppercase letter on first readings, and then point out the lowercase letter when you think your child is ready.) The majority of the words use the most frequent letter sounds, but apron, ensemble, ice skates, overalls, and knits are exceptions. Use these as an opportunity to talk about long and short vowel sounds or silent letters, when your child is ready to go there.


An ABC Book for Teaching Lowercase Letters

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

“Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room?” Yes, any bookshelf should always have room for this classic. It has everything you want in a children’s book. Bright, colorful illustrations? Check! Cute plot line? Check! A fun rhyme for the whole time? Check! This delightful read uses repetition to help children actively participate in the reading of the book. A major bonus is that it also focuses on lowercase letters, which kids will see much more than capitals when they start reading independently. Adults and kids will enjoy this lilting poem that evokes life in the tropics—enough to read it again and again.


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