Teaching the Alphabet

Amy Rees
April 25, 2012

Igniting a love of reading involves both the tales that a good book spins and the construction of those tales. And the alphabet is of course the first tool of your little language builder. How best to learn that delightful (and delightfully arbitrary) set of 26? 

Here are our tried-and-true ideas:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

This book is a widely-loved modern classic, frequently—and properly, we think—cited as the very best, very first place to start for leading your child through the alphabet. It is bright and tropical, with a rhyme that has a calypso beat to it that kids (and their parents simply adore). We all have so many stories of little ones whose faces simply light up at the sight of the book—there's something about the hot pink and orange and green color scheme and the silly antics of nutty lowercase letters or the fantastic rhyming cadence that tells the wise early preschooler that this is book she wants to hear again and again (and again and again).


This astounding book is one of those rare treats that works well for kids aged 2, 5, 10 or 40. Each page is a minutely detailed, gorgeously drawn visual puzzle based around a letter of the alphabet. There is an alliterative heading, written almost tongue-twister style, such as "Crafty Crimson Cats Carefully Catching Crusty Crayfish" or "Lazy Lions Lounging In The Local Library." Then the page is filled with literally dozens and dozens of other seemingly unrelated objects, until... aha! you realize that the names of every one of those tiny things begins with the same letter. The detail is endless, and endlessly charming—on the L page, the lions are looking at books titled "Lassie Come Home," "Let's Learn Latin" and "Life in Luxembourg" and on the D page, the dragons are dining on delicacies of dates and doughnuts. It's just delicious. We could go on and on—Base certainly does. It's witty and great for parents but accessible and amazing for kids. A true classic.

Here Come the ABCs

This album, originally released as an audio CD and now available as a DVD with puppets singing along, is a fantastic break from traditional "kid music." The alphabet is clearly just the springboard for the band, as they riff both musically and lyrically on the letters and end up on a wonderful, winding path through upbeat, ballad, country and electronic/funk music. The songs are catchy without being annoying, and it is one of the few CDs that you won't dread your little one asking for in the car. For the tenth time in a row. 

From the Parents

  • Ann Black

    That was to parent #1

    over a year ago

  • Ann Black

    Thanks for the great link!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 1

    The statement: "the alphabet is of course the first tool of your little language learner" is not true. The building blocks of learning to read start in infancy and progress developmentally as the child grows. The "first tools" include talking with your child and listening, telling stories as well as reading stories, playing with your child, bringing them into nature. The 'screen time' activities marketed for babies and young children are totally unnecessary and really a waste of your child's valuable time as a child. A child's creativity, curiosity, and natural love of learning is nurtured through play and direct, loving interaction with other human beings. Children's brains develop more fully and with greater capacity while hearing a live person speaking with them and while playing with dolls, blocks, trucks, puppets, etc. Decoding the alphabet is a very small part of learning to read and your child's brain is more developmentally ready to begin actual decoding around the age of 7. Please read the policy brief from the Alliance for Childhood; one thing it points out: " ...did you know that teaching children to read at five is not based on evidence but assumptions that starting earlier will yield long-term gains? Children who are taught to read at six or seven – with lots of pre-reading activities to enrich their lives – do just as well and with far less stress and strain. http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/PolicyBrief2.pdf Blessings in your parenting journey, Sherry

    over a year ago


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