Teaching the alphabet to toddlers, preschoolers or kindergartners doesn’t ever have to be tedious or boring, or hard work – for you or your child. It can and should be fun and easy for everyone in your family.
Alphabet books are an important part of your family library.They provide exposure to letters and sounds with all the benefits of reading aloud to your child.
Kids who have seen and heard the alphabet through the happy experience of being read aloud to by a loving adult will absorb so much knowledge about letters and sounds. You’ll be amazed at how easily and naturally it happens.
Try to snuggle up together with at least one alphabet book every day. Keep book baskets in convenient places throughout your home, and make sure each basket contains an inviting alphabet book. Stow a couple in the back seat of the car, and send one along on trips to the grandparents’ house.
The great thing about alphabet books is that as soon as your child can recognize a handful of letters, they can “read” an alphabet book by looking for the letters they know.
This list was so hard to narrow down, but here are ten of my favorite alphabet books, in no particular order.
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A to Z by Sandra Boynton
My husband and I loved reading Sandra Boynton books to our kids. A to Z by Sandra Boynton is filled with her whimsical animal characters, each one representing a letter and performing an activity starting with that same letter.
Most of the activities are likely to be familiar to young children, but some provide more unique opportunities for vocabulary development. My personal favorite is “Aardvark Admiring,” with an illustration of a smiling aardvark adjusting his bowtie.
There’s no particular storyline – just simple, clear illustrations of one animal and one activity representing each letter. It’s a great book for introducing the alphabet to toddlers, and preschoolers can quickly memorize it and “read” it to themselves.
Max’s ABC by Rosemary Wells
Next up is Max’s ABC by Rosemary Wells. The “Max” books by Rosemary Wells are subtly hilarious and the sibling relationship between Max and Ruby is so sweet.
I’ve seen kids get so excited when they realize that they already know Max and Ruby from other books and the Nick Jr. television show.
This alphabet book features a silly storyline that gets crazier and crazier as Ruby tries to help Max solve the problems created when his ants escape from their ant farm. I love that each page focuses on just one letter while still maintaining a plot! The rhythm of the story makes it fun for adults to read and easy for kids to chime along with.
(As an aside, a great thing about the 40+ Max books is that there is one for just about every childhood experience imaginable.) I always enjoyed finding books that matched what was going on in my kids’ lives when they were little.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
I appreciate that this book features lowercase letters in addition to uppercase letters. (One of my pet peeves is that kids need exposure to both uppercase and lowercase letters, right from the start.) I also love that John Archambault illustrated the letters crisply and clearly so that it’s easy for children to tell them apart and notice the differences in their shapes.
The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra
How cute is the idea of Alphabet Town? In The Sleepy Little Alphabet, parents (the uppercase or capital letters) are trying to put the children (the lowercase letters) to bed. It is not going smoothly. Excuses and stalling abound, and will be familiar to parents and children alike.
To me, half the fun of the naughtiness and silliness is in the expressions on the letters’ faces. The uppercase parents actually look harassed, and the lowercase kids are gleeful.
The illustrations are simple and clear, but there is plenty of detail to notice. Lowercase “f” is holding flowers, lowercase “j” is jumping, and lowercase “s” is swinging. In a nice satisfying ending, lowercase “y” is yawning, and lowercase “z” is snoring cute little “zzzzzzz’s”.
Click on the video below to watch as I share my new favorite alphabet book.
Dr. Seuss’s ABC
Another classic, Dr. Seuss’s ABC is as zany as any of the Dr. Seuss books, and equally as fun to read aloud. Full of nonsense words, awesome rhythm and ridiculous rhymes, it asks “Big B, little b, what begins with B?” and then answers with a tongue-twisting alliteration of a response.
The illustrations are vintage Seuss, colorful and imaginative.
Two things I really like about this book: it includes both lowercase and uppercase letters, and it matter-of-factly presents the ideas that letters represent sounds and words begin with specific letters.
Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
It’s always nice to find a themed alphabet book that can be used in many ways. Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables weaves in nutrition, culture and geography with pictures of fruits and vegetables from all over the world, illustrated in Lois Ehlert’s unique watercolor collage style.
It’s sort of a picture dictionary of fruits and vegetables, with an encyclopedia included at the back in the form of a detailed, illustrated glossary. I bet you’ll come across a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t heard of before!
This one is great for older children as well; you could find the locations on a map or prepare a newly discovered fruit or vegetable for the family to try.
My First ABC by DK
My First ABC by DK is part of the “My First Books” series and it certainly lives up to that name. This sturdy board book is perfect as a first alphabet book for babies, with just a few clear and colorful photographs for each letter.
This visual style and layout is the easiest for babies to focus on at a very young age. A few months later, it lends itself beautifully to asking a baby or toddler “Can you find the ________?” and watching chubby little fingers proudly point to the item named.
Each photograph is labeled clearly, making it easy for adults to point to the word as we read it. This starts developing print awareness, the understanding that the little black marks on the page have meaning. An early understanding of this concept makes learning to read so much easier later on.
Sesame Street: Elmo’s ABC Lift-the-Flap
Elmo’s ABC Lift the Flap offers a rich experience in so many ways. The pages are busier than some of the other books I’ve mentioned, and a single two-page spread offers plenty to look at, find, discuss, or do.
Each letter is on a large flap that lifts up to reveal a picture and a sentence or two. Many smaller flaps throughout the book lift up to show pictures underneath. Almost everything on each page is clearly labeled.
If you want to keep the flaps intact, you might want to keep this book reserved for reading to and with your child, as opposed to reading by your child.
This is a great choice for toddlers and preschoolers who love Sesame Street and are familiar with the characters.
A Is for Apple (Smart Kids Trace-And-Flip)
A Is For Apple is a simple book that offers so much. It’s an interactive book that offers a kinesthetic aspect, with grooved letter shapes for kids to trace with an index finger or stylus.
Uppercase and lowercase letters are included, with two simple pictures for each letter. One of the pictures is printed on a flap, and the other is revealed when the flap is lifted.
Perfect for children ages one to three, this book makes a great first birthday gift or gift for any one-year-old.
Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
Like Sleepy Little Alphabet and Max’s ABC, Z Is for Moose has a definite plot. It elicits giggles and roars of laughter, as Moose impatiently tries to claim his time on stage during Zebra’s ABC production. Be sure to look carefully at the illustrations to catch all the humor.
When Moose isn’t chosen to represent the letter “M,” his tantrum is epic, and readers will wonder how this situation can possibly be resolved. Because Z is NOT for Moose, right? Turns out that it can be, when friendship saves the day.
Include alphabet books like these in your read alouds on a regular basis, and I promise you’ll be delighted with your child’s easy, natural progress.
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