A little while back I got a reader question about teaching little ones to love the alphabet. I have often shared our girls’ love of the alphabet and this reader wanted to know how I got them to love it. And I really did some soul searching and thinking about it and came up with the number one resource for sharing the alphabet with our girls. It is a book. And it is a book we started reading to G (our oldest) before she was a year old. And W started hearing it from the time she was cognizant of other people’s voices (probably in the womb). G now knows most of it by heart and W is well on her way to remembering most of it, too. This ONE alphabet book is the one I would recommend to parents to introduce and get their kids excited about the alphabet from an early age.
What is it?
CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
You may not have heard of this book and you may have read it countless times to your kids. I was in the former category when we received it as part of our baby shower for G. I can still remember when I opened it and saw it for the first time. Our copy is an oversized board book and it stands out in the shelves and shelves of books we have. It came highly recommended from a mom of many kids. When we first started reading it to G, I knew why it was so popular and so effective for teaching the alphabet. The prose does not get any simpler, but the rhyme scheme is so FUN! The book walks little ones through the alphabet letter by letter as they race to the top of the coconut tree. There is action, drama, and more! But the book is subtly teaching little readers and pre-readers LOTS of things about the alphabet! They discover there are big letters and little letters. They see that they are related to one another (like in a family). And they start to discover the order of the alphabet. And it is SO fun to read.
I have some tips for reading this book with little ones (and a video of me reading it with my little ones). Some of these tips will help with any book and some are specific to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Please take the tips you love and leave a note in the comments letting me know your best reading tips!
1. Enthusiasm is the most important factor in engaging kids in books!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is easy to be enthusiastic about – it reads so well aloud! But getting excited with your little ones about what they are reading lets them know you enjoy the experience, too! When my girls bring books for me to read, I try my very best to make them engaging by creating voices (where appropriate), pausing to add emphasis, and even singing when necessary. If they see me having a good time reading, they will think reading is fun, too!
2. Point to letters and words as you are reading.
Pointing to letters and words as you are reading does a number of things for kids. It helps them associate spoken words with written words. And it helps them to start to process the left to right reading of English words. In Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, it helps little ones to begin to identify the individual letters of the alphabet, both upper and lower cases. For really little ones that need help with pointing, help them point to the letters as you go through the book. This will help their brains to make a kinetic connection between what they are hearing, seeing, and pointing to.
3. Sing the alphabet song at the end of the book.
I only have one copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, but I assume all versions of the book include a print out of the alphabet similar to what you would find in every elementary classroom. The letters are grouped together, upper then lowercase, in alphabetical order. We typically sing the alphabet song, once through pointing to the upper case letters. And then sing through the song again, pointing to the lowercase letters. Every kid is different, but because G enjoyed this book so much when she was younger, she was able to sing the alphabet song around 18 months old. For a long time, the alphabet song was her absolute favorite song! While my girls were reading this book this morning, I was reminded that they also like to sing the song various ways: loud, quiet, fast, or slow – just for fun!
4. Act as a commentary on the book as you read.
We do this with most books, but especially books that have been read hundreds of times before. As we read, I stop to ask questions or say something about the action going on in the book. This helps to change up the rhythm of the books that our girls already know so well – kind of to get them off their routine reading of the book. Some of our favorite questions involve locating characters, letters, or objects in the book. We will stop to count things we see or guess at what is coming next in the story. All these things help to engage little minds in the book in a fresh way each time.
5. Read, read, read, repeat.
I use this phrase as I teach my Bible study students to study the Bible inductively for themselves. And the reason for the repetition is: it WORKS! Repetition helps to cement knowledge in our brains. Reading books over and over and over with kids is pretty tedious at times, but there is a reason they want you to read the same books repeatedly: they are learning! The repetitive reading of books, helps kids not only learn new things, but review – it encourages them to become readers themselves because they have experience with success. When they begin to recognize what you are saying and prefer books, they can pat themselves on the back for what they DO know. Their success with these small books, encourages them to have similar success with other books. And before you know it, you have a reader! Or in the case of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, you have little alphabet song singers!
This is the video of us reading through the book for what must be the 5,000th time.
We have other alphabet books we love, but Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is the book our girls request the most – and, honestly, it is my favorite, too! Do you and your little ones have a favorite alphabet book? Please share in the comments and I will do a round-up of moms’ and kids’ favorite alphabet books.
NOTE: This post includes affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, you get a great book and I get a small remuneration for my recommendation. That said, libraries are free and amazing, but I try to only share things I really think you will enjoy and be blessed by.