A child’s greatest growth in language occurs during their earliest years. It all starts with a baby’s earliest sounds, which develop into words, then sentences, then stories and conversations. A rich exposure to books will help children connect their oral language to written language. Alphabet books are a great way to foster this transition. When choosing an alphabet book, look for these attributes. Alphabet books should pair a letter’s sound with a real, concrete object, like “a is for apple or k is for kitten.“ If a child sees “k is for knife” or “g is for gnat”, they will be confused about what sound the letter represents. The pictures should be clear and easy to interpret. I know, this sounds…YAWN…boring. But, I have great news! It doesn’t have to be! Many authors and illustrators have bent these rules with wonderful results.
Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson is one of my favorite alphabet books. This Caldecott Award-winning book exhibits ”photorealistic” paintings in an urban environment that offer a unique variety of views and perspectives, textures, and light. Each piece stands alone as a beautiful work of art. Together, they inspire the reader to see patterns and art in their everyday world.
Oh, you might be wondering what the Caldecott Award is. The Caldecott Medal is “awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year,” from “About the Caldecott Medal,” American Library Association, December 12, 2006. It is named after Randolph Caldecott, a nineteenth-century English illustrator. His illustrations were “unique to their time in both their humor, and their ability to create a sense of movement, vitality, and action that complemented the stories they accompanied, ” also from the American Library Association.
I’ll leave you with a couple good on-line resources for good quality children’s books (just like books for adults, children’s books are not all good!). These, as well as others, will appear in the “Links” section on the right.
The American Library Association’s Caldecott Medal page: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecottmedal.cfm
The Children’s Book Guide site is also a good resource. You can search by topic, award-winners and read reviews. http://childrensbooksguide.com/
Your assignment now…read at least 20 minutes a day with your kids!!