By Chrysta Naron
“Once I unlocked the mystery of the alphabet that led to words, a multitude of words connecting me to the world, there was no stopping me.” —Gloria Naylor
Every word in the entire English language, every word your child will ever read or say, is made up of only 26 letters. Learning the alphabet is the gateway to reading, but in order to master it, kids need to relate the letters to their names, sounds, and to real-world objects. This is the way letters become more than just shapes on a page to young children.
Of course, there is no shortage of books dedicated to helping children learn their ABCs. So which to choose? I’ve compiled a list of my absolute favorite alphabet books. These particular titles made the cut by being dynamic, effective, and diverse.
“Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room?” Yes, my bookshelf always has 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.
The Handmade Alphabet is a lovingly illustrated book that brings American Sign Language to life for young audiences. It teaches children the alphabet in ASL, which makes it a wonderful resource for children who are hearing impaired. Hearing children may also benefit from a warm introduction to another language and the chance to flex some new learning muscles.
An alliterative adventure, LMNO Peas uses tiny peas to explore the alphabet and lists the many jobs, hobbies, and activities someone can “do” with each letter of the alphabet. The letters are front and center, with delightful details of peas playing throughout the illustrations. It’s a fun book to engage your children, as you help them discover something new in the illustrations with each read.
This book is fantastic. It uses the alphabet to explain equality in child-friendly language. There are longer explanations for slightly older children who can sit still, as well as concise ones for younger kiddos. And did I mention the bright, bold graphics? I highly recommend this engaging and striking book.
Lois Ehlert is technically on this list twice. That’s how good she is at making kids love the ABCs! She illustrated Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and then turned around and made this feast for the eyes and mind. Eating the Alphabet introduces children to fruits and vegetables from around the world via the alphabet. This allows the learning to continue long past story time, into trips to the grocery store and every meal you eat. Plus, it features upper and lowercase letters, which is always a strong feature in my book.
This volume is a tactile delight! For your littlest ones, this book has three-dimensional letters in striking colors. Each sits next to an image that both begins with that letter and incorporates the letter’s shape. The images are made for little fingers to feel and trace, which develops fine motor abilities, as well as early writing skills.
This book brings together music, family, and the alphabet. It teaches your child their ABCs and explores a wide range of musical instruments at the same time. Alphabet Family Band is so much fun that you and your child will want to start your own family band!
Rather than relating a letter to a single object or action, Oliver Jeffers has created a short story for each letter in a way only he can. The stories are whimsical and brief, which make them perfect for short attention spans. This book will also broaden your child’s vocabulary and help them hear and see letters in words they may not typically come across. After all, when is the last time you got to talk about an enigmatic elephant?
This book by Cree author and artist Neepin Auger teaches children the English alphabet with her simple and vibrant illustrations. But Auger takes this one step further by using this book to also teach children the words in French and Cree. Discovering Words is a gem for all early readers and their families.
Do you have a favorite ABC book not listed here? Let us know what it is.