Letters are endlessly fascinating for all ages. There are alphabet books for babies, toddlers, early readers—and even middle schoolers and adults. For infants and toddlers, it helps to choose alphabet books that they can interact with, guessing letters or sounds, delighting in vibrant colors, or relating to favorite objects or activities. Below is a sampling of some of our kid-tested favorites, especially recommended for your littlest ones.
A Farmer’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian
In bold and striking woodcuts of “Apples” through “Zinnias,” Mary Azarian creates a book that is perfect as a first introduction to the letters of the alphabet. Each page has very large upper and lower case letters and is illustrated by an object or activity that depicts the rural life. For example, “J” for jumping (in a haystack) or “U” for putting on underwear in front of a woodstove. A terrific companion alphabet book—in color this time—is Azarian’s A Gardener’s Alphabet.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert
Young children love this bright and lively alphabet book, with its bold colors and playful rhyming language patterns. The letters all scramble up a coconut tree, which cannot hold their weight. When they all tumble down, the poor letters are battered in various ways, sporting black eyes, bandages, and tape to patch them up. This book is considered one of the best alphabet books for very young children. It also comes in a board book edition, as well as with an accompanying CD featuring Ray Charles reading the story.
Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English by Alma Flor Ada
In this stunning bilingual alphabet book, Alma Flor Ada matches each letter with a Spanish word (for example, “Arboles” for “A”) and adds a poem in both Spanish and English that describes how the plant, fruit, vegetable, person, or feeling functions in the lives of these workers. The poems are short and simple, but lyrical and match the brilliance of the illustrations.
ABC: A Child’s First Alphabet Book by Alison Jay
Perfect as a first alphabet book, this is a beautifully illustrated text that really invites a young reader to enjoy the pictures and match the sounds of the letters to many objects on a page. The images are familiar objects that toddlers will easily recognize, and appreciate exploring. There is also a subtle underlying story that weaves the pages together.
Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood
Another alphabet book that helps children become more familiar with letter shapes and sounds while interacting with an interesting story. Little x is missing from Charley’s alphabet and the other letters have to search for him (flying off on a pencil to find him). Children enjoy the bright and intriguing digital images that help tell the story of why little x ran away.
The Yummy Alphabet Book: Herbs, Spices, and Other Natural Flavors by Jerry Pallotta
This book is for any child of any age to whom you want to introduce the world of letters, of colors, of spices, of cooking. We chose it for the twins because they love to “dump and stir” ( translation: “cook”), especially with the spices on mommy’s shelf. This edible alphabet adventure has mouthwatering watercolor illustrations and informative details about each herb. Jerry Pallotta also has a world of alphabet books for everyone from the dinosaur lover to those intrigued with insects. Check them out for the special interests of the children you love.
The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst
This inventive alphabet book invites children (and adults) to explore each letter in four ways. Each time you turn the letter, it becomes a different object. With a young child, you can point out the letters and enjoy the bold graphics. But this is also a book that can grow with the child, re-exploring to understand how the author has played with the letters.
Q Is for Duck: An Alphabet Guessing Game
by Michael Folsom (Author), Mary Elting and Jack Kent
A great variation from the standard alphabet book. Here, the letter doesn’t stand for the object, but for the sound it makes. Even very young children can figure out most of these riddles, and love to make the animal sounds. It’s a hit as an interactive book—and of course, you can make up other words to match the various letters with the more “expected” animal or object.
The Alphabet Room by Sara Pinto
Children get to interact with this alphabet book in a different way—by lifting the flaps. Each letter has a door to a warm yellow room which fills with objects as the reader progresses through the book. There is a gentle humor to the inviting pictures that adults as well as young children can enjoy together. It’s also fun to continue to search for items on the pages, learning new objects and names with each rereading.
Alphabeasties: And Other Amazing Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss
This alphabet book is another of the ones that delights parents as well as kids, and while pre-schoolers love it, older kids who are quite familiar with the ins and outs of the alphabet adore it as well. On the surface, it’s a cute alphabet book that makes an animal for each letter, composed of that letter. But on deeper inspection, there’s more. It’s also a love letter to fonts and typography – showing how a simple font choice can inform how we feel about the words presented. (A bat made up of gothic b’s makes you think that the bat will turn into a vampire, elongated g’s emphasize the giraffe’s height…). It’s an interesting introduction to both the alphabet, and to the notion that not only can words make art in the form of books, sometimes the words themselves are art.