Alphabet Books Galore!

It's Book Week here in Australia - with the wonderful theme of "Books Light Up Our World".  In honour of Book Week I thought I'd write about alphabet books.

Alphabet books come in all sizes and types and for all ages. They can be fiction and non-fiction, based on photographs or illustrations, customised or generic. Alphabet books should be included in the self-selected reading options for anyone who is an emergent reader and writer - and for anyone who enjoys them!

We ultimately want every emergent reader and writer to learn all of the letters of the alphabet, and to know them in all situations. However, there are many stages along that journey for each developing reader. In the beginning, emergent readers need to learn that letters of the alphabet are different from pictures and shapes. They also need to begin to recognize and name some letters of the alphabet, especially those in their own name and in the names of other people who are important to them.  Alphabet books are an important part of our toolkit along this journey. We can use alphabet books to focus on specific letters or to build knowledge of high interest letters. We can also use alphabet books as a way of learning about and playing with the whole alphabet. Using a mixture of commercial and custom alphabet books can also be a very useful tool.

So - let's have a look at some of the different alphabet books out there!

We are all familiar with A - Z alphabet books aimed at young children, with a page for every letter, such as the one below.

Cleo's Alphabet Book by Caroline Mockford

There are also alphabet books that are wonderfully illustrated and that appeal to people of all ages. Animalia was released when I was in my final year of school but it was incredibly popular with students of all ages at my school as we spent hours pouring over the pages, trying to identify everything we could.  Over 3 million copies of it have been sold for a good reason. I love the alliteration on every page, paired with amazing illustrations.

Graeme Base's incredible Animalia

Many alphabet books are aimed at specific areas of interest - and can be for all ages. Earlier this year, the Perimeter Institute released an alphabet book to celebrate the centennial of Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity.  Read it to the physics geek in your family today 🙂

The Relativity Alphabet

M is for Metal by Paul McNeil is another example of a topic specific A - Z alphabet book.  If you like Heavy Metal you'll enjoy some of the humour in this book.

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It's also important to remember that not all alphabet books have to be A - Z.  In fact, it's probably good to mix things up a bit.  Many people find the earlier letters of the alphabet easier to recall - and this is because we do so many A - Z alphabet activities.  Try mixing things up by reading alphabet books like My Z, Y, X book by Reed A Booke or The Trip from Z to A.  Or use a book like Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky that plays with the A to Z format.

When writing a custom alphabet book, remember that you don't need to cover every single letter of the alphabet. For example, you could write a family specific alphabet book and have pages for each family member and for important concepts to do with family.

(Thanks to Erin Sheldon for permission to use this page)

You could make an alphabet book with movies of actions to help learn certain letters.

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K is for Kiss

And an alphabet book of favourite foods is always welcome and often highly motivating!

Tar Heel Reader is a fabulous source of different alphabet books. You can find lots of A to Z books on different topics.  Check out Jess Murray's Superhero/Villain Alphabet book. Jess is a teacher at Willans Hill School and has a fabulous collection of alphabet (and other) books on Tar Heel Reader.

There are also books on Tar Heel Reader that skip or repeat letters or have letters out of order. This is great to help some students understand that the alphabet doesn't always have to be the same.  I often meet students who only know the alphabet as long as it occurs in the same order - and it's helpful to show them alternatives to expand their knowledge base.  Look at  Zoo Animals by Library12, Vowel Song by Barb Dempster or Thomas and Friends.

Tar Heel Reader also has lots of letter specific alphabet books.  There's a collection of 26 of them, one for each letter of the alphabet, that you can easily access - but the options grow weekly.  I love the variety in here.  For example, you have my own X is a Letter of the Alphabet, or an alternative X is a Letter of the Alphabet from jpf9497, followed by Reed a Booke's X-Egg-Ly.  So many options for letters that need more focus for an individual.

And I'm going to finish with one of my favourite alphabet books with a twist.  Take Away the A, written by Michaël Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, has a series of pages on what happens to a word when you remove one letter to make another word.  A fabulous alphabet book for conventional and emergent readers alike.  Warning: reading this book generally results in lots of time spent playing with this concept 🙂

Enjoy book week and enjoy all those lovely alphabet books!

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Comments (9)

  1. Reply

    Wonderful, uplifting post! Really enjoyed reading about all the different age appropriate alphabet books song with making them personal. Thanks again Jane for a wonderful read. Enjoy book week, we are all dressing up! Hope you are too!

    • jane


      Glad you enjoyed it! I'm giving a workshop on Wednesday and thinking of dressing up for the day. I shall have to be creative!

  2. Reply

    Book Week is one of my favourite times of the year! I use it as an excuse to buy more books... I will have to get a copy of "Take Away the A", it looks great.
    We are all dressing up this year, school wide and I am so excited! Dressing up while promoting a love of books and reading, what more could we want?

    • jane


      Yay for dressing up school wide. I hope you post some staff photos! Enjoy - and thanks for all your great books on Tar Heel Reader 🙂

  3. Reply

    Thanks for this great post and list of books! I've been a feeling a bit stagnant with some of our alphabet books, so it's good to read about the importance of mixing it up and seeing some books that flip the script on the traditional A-Z format!

  4. Pam Harris


    This is such great info! I never realized there were so many types of alphabet books, and I love the idea of playing with the letters out of order. My daughter, a children's librarian, buys Z is for Moose for all her friends' kids, and now I see why.

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