Alphabet Books…Still?



Oftentimes, people read alphabet books with toddlers or preschoolers, but I find them to be appropriate reading for kindergarteners and older kids as well. There are so many great alphabet books on the market, and their best features are often lost on younger children. Yesterday I asked my son to pick out an alphabet book from a stack I had gotten from the library. I thought we’d read just one, but after we finished the first, he asked another. The first book we read was
The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst. The text is written on each page such that the reader is forced to turn the book around and view each letter in four different directions. It’s an intriguing way to look at and talk about letters with kids. For each different perspective, Ernst compares the focus letter to different objects. For A, she wrote, “A becomes a bird’s beak, a drippy ice-cream cone, a point of a wishing star.” My son enjoyed trying to see why the author chose certain objects to compare the letter to, and of course, he thought of some objects he thought would be better comparisons!


After Ernst’s book, we read A is for Salad by Mike Lester. I have to admit, I looked at this book before showing it to my son, and I didn’t think much of it. This is one of those alphabet books that asks kids to figure out the relationship between the featured letter and the claim the author is making about the sound that letter makes. Most of the books I have read in the past, however, have some sort of relationship between the claim they make and object that really doesn’t begin with the focus letter. Q is for Duck is a great example of that type of book. (“Q is for duck. Why? Because a duck quacks.”) A is for Salad seemed to me to be missing the point a bit. The text reads, “A is for salad,” and it shows an alligator munching on a salad. I didn’t think it would impress my son. I was quickly proven wrong when I heard his giggles page after page. I’m glad Mr. Lester knew his audience!

If you’re intrigued, check out my list of alphabet books for additional recommendations.

A New Series

Colors in the Jungle   Dolphins     Tigers    Bats and Birds  The Chocolate Tree  Giraffes Like to Eat

In my ever-illusive hunt for books that are a good fit for my emergent reader, recently came across a series I am falling in love with called Training Wheels. (And no, I’m not employed by them…yet. I can always hope!)

What sets these books apart is the amazing photography, and the fact that some of the books take on advanced or unique topics that beginning readers might not have been exposed to before. This keeps interest levels high, and at the same time, the authors have managed to keep reading levels fairly low. They are not leveled according to any of the standard leveling systems, but they are leveled in a logical way.

Jane Hileman, a former reading specialist who is also a mom, founded the company that produces the Training Wheels series (American Reading Company). According to American Reading Company’s website, Hileman, “saw how quickly students advanced when using ‘books that fit’ – that is books at the appropriate level of challenge that match both the precise stage of the child’s reading development and the child’s interests.”

I couldn’t agree with Hileman more. Finding a good fit book is so essential to the growth of a beginning reader. Some kids do fine when they’re handed a book that is too hard for them to read, but others crumble.

I hope you’ll find the Training Wheel series to be as beneficial to your emergent reader as I have. Though my son wants to read each book only a couple times, he’s been enjoying the photography and even likes reading over the “power words” they list at the end. I can’t get these from our local library yet, so I’ve purchased 8 books at this point, and I don’t regret it.

So far, his favorite is The Chocolate Tree by Traci Dibble. With specific photos and simple text, it tells where chocolate comes from and how it is made. It’s something we have not had much experience with, so it was of high interest for my son. He also liked Colors in the Jungle by Kristina Rupp, Dolphins and Tigers both by Jane Hileman.

We’ve also read: Mountain Gorillas by Traci Dibble, Bats and Birds by Jayson Fleischer, and Giraffes Like to Eat by Matt Reher.

Make sure to check out all the supplemental information at the back of each book. In Colors of the Jungle, for example, there is a page at the end of the book telling all about the world’s largest flower because it was featured on the red page. The addition of sections such as these really helped draw my son in.

I can’t wait until he’s ready for Brown Bear or Black Bear? by Heather Warren and Robbie Byerly. I’m so excited! (and a geek, I know, but still I’m excited!)