Thursday, November 5, 2009

Alphabet Week -- 5 Days of Great Alphabet Books, Day 4

This post is a bit of a cheat because I'm not going to talk about a single book. Rather, I'm going to talk about a category of books called Special Interest Alphabet Books (SAIB): books built entirely around a particular area in which your child has a marked interest. And yes, I just made that up.

This particular book, The Beetle Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallota, is a great, and at our house much-loved, example of this genre. The entire book is devoted to beetles. If you have a bug lover at your house, this is the book for you. Pallota's books are for older kids, 4 years and up. Even my 8 year old occasionally picks this one up because it's loaded with interesting factual information about beetles -- beetle characteristics, weird stuff beetles do, exotic beetles -- it reads like a children's encyclopedia. Because it's so rich with information, my children come back to it again and again. It was an excellent tool for my son's kindergarten year to reinforce letter and sound recognition and it was the hands-down choice for Bring Your Favorite Book To School Day.
Pallotta is probably the king of this kind of book. By my very unscientific count, he's got something like 21 different alphabet books, all highly specific. Here's an example from the text of The Construction Aphabet Book:

The subjects he covers range from airplanes (2 books) to boats to flowers. Vegetables, furry animals, birds, reptiles, the desert, frogs, dinosuars, the ocean, even skulls and extinct animals have their own books. You can visit his website for a complete list of books (he does some neat stuff with math concepts, too).

Two warnings about Pallotta's books: he uses different illustrators for each volume, so the quality of the artwork can sometimes be uneven. The Beetle Alphabet Book has gorgeous pictures, but The Yucky Reptile Alphabet Book has a couple pictures which are dark and make it hard to pick out detail. For this reason, it might be better to go to the bookstore or library and see what you're getting. Also, on occasion he chooses something to represent a letter which doesn't make that letter's sound. This happens twice in The Yucky Reptile Alphabet Book: once with Knob-Tailed Gecko (which he notes is a silent K and adds Komodo Dragon to rectify) and again with Gila Monster for G. If you grew up in the Southwest, as I did, you know that Gila is pronounced "hee-lah." Not at all an English G sound.

Beyond Pallotta, there are any number of other SIABs out there.

There's this one, above, for the dancer in the family. And this one, below, for the dog lover.

W is for Woof is part of a series of SAIBs, which are shown below. It covers some unsual interests, like travel and camping, along with more common interests like cats and horses.

The point of all this is that children always learn more when that learning is embedded in something they're already interested in. It's more than worth the time to seek out alphabet books that will build on that interest.

All images from or

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