Archive for March 1st, 2010

Elfabit by Steve Pilcher. Hayes Publishing, 1982.
The Farmer’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian. David R. Godine, 1981.
M is for Moose by Charles Pachter. Cormorant Books, 2008.

A is for acorn which makes a small boat.
B is for brownies who all like to float.
C is for cabin on a cold forest floor.
D is for dragon outside the door.

So begins the alphabetical verse featured in Elfabit. You can tell this was a favorite book by the state of the dust jacket. When my children were very young, it seemed to me that the skill most vital to academic success in school would be good reading skills. Accordingly, I set out to teach them to read. There was no drill, no studying, no boring games. Just reading aloud in a warm atmosphere every night, plenty of fun and interesting books always on hand, and alphabet books.

The most basic knowledge necessary in order to start reading is knowing the alphabet. Not the alphabet song, no. Being able to sing your ABCs doesn’t go very far toward reading, although it is a good thing to know if you plan on doing a lot of filing. However, simply by sharing alphabet books over a period of time, children can easily learn the basics of literacy. To read, what you need to know is the sounds the letters represent. Thus, the adult reader informs the listener: This is a letter A. The letter A says aaaa. This is a letter B. The letter B says buh. Just in the same way you might say “This is a picture of a cow. A cow says moooo!” Before long, the listener can fill in all the sounds. Lots of different alphabet books means the listener has the opportunity to see the letters in many different styles. Soon, C…A…T can be sounded out. Cat!

Regardless of how you might feel about teaching reading, alphabet books are a lot of fun. There is a cornucopia of alphabet books available. Elfabit, with its funny rhyme and colourful pictures was one of our favorites. It was written and illustrated by a local artist who did a fantastic job of bringing brownies and ogres and fairies to life in his appealing paintings.

There are many alphabet books that serve as a framework for wonderful artwork. Another favorite of mine is A Farmer’s Alphabet, by New England artist Mary Azarian.

Mary Azarian’s bold woodcuts present a portrait of farm life that is at once traditional and modern. For more about Mary Azarian and her woodcuts, visit her website at www.maryazarian.com.

A recent alphabet book that is great for sharing with children, but stands on its own as a book for adults, is artist Charles Pachter’s M is for Moose.

Pachter’s best known painting may be his iconic portrait of the Queen seated on a moose. Staunchly Canadian, the book includes an imaginative selection from P is for Poet featuring Margaret Atwood, to W is for Winter, look at that snow!

At the back of the book, there is information about the images, suggestions for games to play with young readers, and even a recipe for butter tarts!

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