Our son’s personal library has what feels like an outsized number of alphabet books. I say “feels like” because when I was starting to think about the number of books he has that are just basically embellished A to Z lists, I went looking for them all. I was surprised that there were only seven of them, out of the many dozens of kids books throughout the house.
The other top two categories of books in his bookcase are books about counting and books about animals in their various habits. He also has books in French, board-book versions of adult classics like Jane Eyre, and several books about including and belonging through the lenses of LGBTQ and disability experiences.
But for some reason the half-dozen alphabet books seem like the most important subcollection of his library. Maybe it’s because we like them, so we read them a lot. (Since he’s young enough still that we, his parents, still have majority say in what books he reads. We’re grateful for that, for as long as that lasts!)
Or maybe it’s because the alphabet is such a key organizing principle for our life. Most of these books are an alphabetic list of some kind, and because of that, it’s easy to see our priorities as a family when you look at this small stack of alphabet books: museums, inclusion, imagination, emotional intelligence. (The Alphablock seems to be an outlier: it’s not the ABCs of a particular group of things, it’s just a random assortment of items that begin with each letter of the alphabet.) More than that, though, these alphabets reflect our commitment to a literary life, a life where books and reading play a central role in our son’s engagement with the world around him.
So, in the spirit of these books, we devised an alphabet about reading books to our son.
A is for art – because our favorite books are more than just words, they have wonderful illustrations
B is for being close, and time spent together bonding through reading
C is for curiosity about the wider world
D is for discovering new things
E is for empathy
F is for French-language learning
G is for growing up with a love for stories
H is for hope
I is for illustrations that stimulate the imagination (I is for imagination)
J is for joy in learning new things
K is for knowledge and know-how (which are related but different)
L is for love, as we read together
M is for mindfulness and paying attention to what kinds of books and writers we read
N is for numbers – and books that make learning to count fun
O is for old favorites, the books we have carried with us from our own childhoods until now, when we can rediscover them with our son
P is for puns, because some of our favorite books are good for our son and funny for us
Q is for questions
R is for reading every day
S is for silliness, because reading is also about entertainment, not just serious education
T is for tactile engagement, when books include fuzzy, furry, fluffy or fleecy accessories
U is for unique perspectives
V is for variety, as long as our child will let us cycle in new books
W is for wonder
“X isn’t for anything” (a la Sandra Boynton in A is for Angry)
Y is for yourself and others, and learning to see yourself as part of something bigger
Z is for zillions of possibilities in the universe of books
I’d love to know about your favorite children’s books! Share them in the comments.