Top 5 Books For Kids to Learn ABC’s by Ilham Alam

ABC imageParents, have the past few weeks been hectic because your kids are going back to school? You may even be feeling emotional because your little one is starting preschool or kindergarten for the first time. Do they know their ABC’s? Is there a way you can help them learn? Of course! ABC picture books! 

Author and mom Ilham Alam has stopped by today to share her favorite books for helping kids learn the alphabet. Read on for a great selection of ABC concept books!

Top 5 Books for Kids to Learn ABC’s

By Ilham Alam

September is finally here, which brings with it cooler temperatures, apple cider and apple picking, harvest and pumpkin farms, and leaves of red and gold. It also brings the back-to-school season with kids back in their classrooms, many of them for the very first time.

As a parent/guardian, how can you best prepare and help your child succeed during Kindergarten? By ensuring that their learning in the classroom is reinforced at home, if your child is not already familiar with their basics like ABC’s by the time they reach JK.

Here are the Top 5 books for kids to learn their alphabets. I have read all of these books with my oldest son, who’s off to Kindergarten this year. We both enjoyed these books for various reasons and are recommending them to you:

Dinosaur A-Z: For Kids Who Really Love Dinosaurs

Dino ABC

This book has photo-realistic pictures of 26 of these prehistoric and majestic creatures, complete with short facts about each of the dinos written in the first-person and meant to make your child laugh along while they learn. I credit this book for teaching my son his alphabets, including the correct order of the letters. In addition, the book spells out the pronunciation of each of the long names phonetically, ensuring that your child begins to connect the letters with sounds. We have had this book for a year and my son still requests to read this a few times a week as it’s not only taught him fun dino facts thus encouraging his passion, but also, he has learned his alphabets and beginning reading skills using the now-familiar words. I cannot recommend this enough and this book is our favourite of the bunch.

Dr.Seuss’s ABC

Seuss ABC

Who doesn’t love the silly rhymes found in Dr. Seuss’s iconic books? This ABC book is no exception and has illustrations featuring many of Dr. Seuss’s familiar characters. The text goes full throttle right from the beginning in fast-moving, foot-tapping, finger-snapping rhymes. What I liked about this was that it also introduces big and little letters to your child, so that visually your child can see where and why big and little letters are used.

Elmo’s ABC Book

Elmo ABC

This ABC book features another iconic children’s character: Elmo from Sesame Street. The book cover is a bright blue making our fuzzy red monster stand out, thus attracting your child’s eye and inviting them to read it. Inside, we meet Elmo and his friends as he tries to figure out what his favourite letter of the alphabet is. Elmo is having a hard time deciding because there is something to love about each letter. For example, he loves the letter ‘B’ as Elmo loves cute babies. Keep reading to discover what Elmo’s favourite letter is. This book stood out for me because it helps to introduce kids to everyday words corresponding to each letter.

Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault

Chicka ABC

I am sure you have heard of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? This is the alphabet version which begins,

A told B, B told C/

I will meet you on top of the coconut tree 

This is another fantastic way for your kids to learn their alphabets as it turns it into a catchy song, which is a great way for your kids to remember and get comfortable with a new concept. And I found it unique that bright colours like orange and hot-pink are the dominant colours used here. You can also put on a YouTube video of the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Alphabet song and dance along to it as well, to further help with the memorization of the alphabets. 

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

Eat Alphabet

This is a different type of alphabet book as each of the alphabet pages have colorful, painting-like pictures of different foods corresponding to each letter. It is a good book for kids to learn of the many different types of food. This could even inspire your little one to try new foods, which is what my son and I like about it. However, this does not have fun rhymes like the other ones listed here.


Thank you, Ilham, for the terrific list of ABC books that are sure to help any child learn the alphabet and have fun at the same time!


Ilham Alam

Ilham Alam

Ilham is a Student Advisor by day and a writer and Children’s Book Author by night. She has her upcoming picture book, Wonder Walk, releasing later this year, to be published by Iguana Books. An avid children’s lit book reader and traveler, she has documented her adventures on her book review and family travel blog, Story Mummy: www.storymummy.com.

Once Upon a Time…in History….by Lisa Olson

 “It’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever make a difference. That’s what I like all my books to say. YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!” ~Lisa Olson

 

 

 

 

I love this quote by Lisa Gammon Olson, author of the American Herstory series! Lisa contacted me recently about her picture book series and I could tell (even through e-mail correspondence) that she’s very passionate about what she wants young readers to take away from her books. I asked Lisa to tell us more about the books and the messages they impart.

My American Herstory Series started where every story starts…with a Once Upon a Time…a small snippet of time from our past, as seen through the eyes of one young girl.  

Working as a secretary in a small rural elementary school has given me a glimpse into the inner workings of a child’s heart and mind.  I see their need for acceptance, for praise and to feel valued as an integral part of the daily school routine.

My father taught 9th grade World Geography and American History. My three sisters and I grew up immersed in daily discussions of current and historical events, interconnected and tightly woven together, todays, tomorrows and yesterdays… sewn together in the colorful patchwork quilt of life.  I’ve always been amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and the will to survive and even thrive in harsh conditions throughout history.

So, in wanting to validate every child’s sense of belonging, coupled with a passion for history, Dust Flowers, came to life.  The first book in this historical fiction series takes place during one of the most difficult periods in American history, the Dust Bowl Era. Imagine being a child, watching your parents struggle to farm during a decade long drought, besieged with daily black blizzards of swirling dust and not having ever felt a drop of rain in your entire lifetime.  What could one small girl do in the enormity of a drought?  Every act, no matter how small, can change someone’s life for the better. Growing a flower and bringing a smile to her mother’s sad face promises something even more precious…hope!

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Illustration from DUST FLOWERS by Lisa Olson, illustrated by Kyle Olson, published by Eifrig Publishing

Children need to know that everything they do in life will affect someone or something, either positively or negatively, depending on their actions.  In the second book, Sewing the Magic In, a young girl living in 1912 learns her own impact and importance.  She’ll find out how her seemingly tedious work in the costume department plays a part in bringing the magic of the circus to life.

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Even the orphan train riders in the third book, The Cheese Song, can find hope and promise in a situation far out of their control.  Each of us has a part to play on this earth and we soon find out we are all dependent upon the actions and kindness of others. Lessons learned from the past, hopefully, help us to grow and evolve in the future.

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Illustration from THE CHEESE SONG by Lisa Olson, illustrated by Lauren Rutledge, published by Eifrig Publishing

While the American Herstory series starts with “Once upon a time”…every book ends with a message of hope, love and the pursuit of the American dream, and they live, as we all should… “Hope”fully ever after.

Lisa Gammon Olson is an author for Eifrig Publishing.  She lives in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores!  She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.”  Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life.  Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities.  Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible and Kind seems like an awesome idea.

Learn more about Lisa and her books at http://lisagammonolson.com 

Hope. Kindness. Tenacity of the human spirit. What wonderful messages for all of us to take into the New Year!

How “The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden” Came to Life

MinaFlowersCover

Aviator Owl Books co-founder Sarah Porcher is a young woman who has impressed me greatly with her creativity, generosity, ambition, and seemingly boundless energy. She first appeared on Frog on a Blog last summer and shared how she started Aviator Owl Books. She also said that the goal of Aviator Owl Books is to “inspire and educate children through print books, eBooks, online games, and apps”. And as if that isn’t enough, Sarah and her co-founder Chris Bill support charitable causes, such as First Book and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, through their book sales. You can read my interview with Sarah by clicking here.

Sarah is back to take us through her fascinating illustration process for her new book The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden. (As a writer, not an illustrator, I’m always intrigued by the art techniques that illustrators use for their books.) Take it away, Sarah! 

Hi everyone! I’m so happy to be able to share some of my illustration techniques for our new book The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden! I’ll start with a brief introduction. My name is Sarah and I’m co-founder of Aviator Owl Books Inc. where I write and illustrate the books under the pen name S. A. Porcher. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about how I illustrated our newest book The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden, which is to be launched April 24 (2015). 

So let’s get started! First, if you’ve seen any of our books before you’ll know that we have two different illustration styles: one using flat designs and vectors, and one with a digital painting technique. For any book with Aviator Owl characters, I use vector illustrations, so this post will be about that process.

I begin all of my illustrations with simple sketches on plain printer paper. I prefer to use ballpoint pens, but occasionally I’ll use pencil. The Aviator Owls were born on paper in 2009, so the basic character sketches have been finished for a long time. That made the illustration process for this book a little more streamlined.

After the character sketches are complete, I’ll sketch out extremely rough layouts for every spread in the book. And by “extremely rough” I mean that the only person on the planet who can understand them is me. Then I will organize them into a storyboard just to get a sense of the storyline. After this I have two options: 1. I scan in the rough layouts and add each one to a spread in Adobe InDesign (InDesign is my best friend) or 2. I use my Wacom Bamboo tablet and the pencil tool in InDesign to sketch the storyboard in by hand, using the physical sketches as a guide. Having the spreads in InDesign helps me a lot because as I fill in the illustrations I can scroll down and remind myself where I’m going next.

Storyboard

Storyboard

Rough Spread

Rough Spread

Next up is starting a spread. I don’t start at any one in particular, I just sort of randomly choose. Now, because I have been working with the Aviator Owls for a long time, I am usually able to adjust them in Illustrator without having to refine my sketches too much. With a new book with new characters, at this point in the process I would have to pull out a pen and paper and sketch out a much more refined spread to use as a guide. But not the owls. Usually at this point they tell me where they want to go (It’s quite nice. I barely do anything at this point)!

I open Illustrator and start a new document, which I will save immediately as “Mina’s Garden”. Then I’ll open any document that has the owls I already designed and copy them into the new document. I work in layers in Illustrator, so I’ll use the same document for the entire book, but every new page will be on a different layer. The tool I probably use the most is the pen tool, and I’ll create (using my Wacom tablet) all of the vectors that are needed for the page.

Mina Duplicates

Mina Duplicates in Illustrator

I pop over to Photoshop and start a new document with the correct dimensions for the book (Aviator Owl Books are all 8.5” x 8.5”) and copy in everything I need. I do touch-ups in Photoshop and then save the document. Unlike in Illustrator, in Photoshop every spread gets its own document. I try to keep these as organized as possible. Every book gets its own folder, and the Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop documents are all dropped there. The Photoshop documents are named “MinaBook01” through “MinaBook14” so I can find it all later.

Spread in Photoshop

Spread in Photoshop

Then it’s into InDesign. Command + D lets me place the Photoshop documents into InDesign. This entire process – from Illustrator to InDesign can take several weeks – sometimes months – depending on the complexity of the book, the number of new characters/objects, and, of course, my schedule (I am still a full-time college student). I am generally a very impatient person, so as soon as I finish a spread in Photoshop, it goes into InDesign. Spread by spread, the rough sketches in InDesign turn into the Photoshop images.

Spread in InDesign

Spread in InDesign

When I’m coming close to the end of the illustrations, I’ll start to fill in text. At this point it’s easy because I’ll have been working on the manuscript since the illustrations began. I’ll use the text tool in InDesign and write directly on top of the images. If something doesn’t fit well, or the text seems too out of place or “just three pixels too far to the left” (yes, I am that kind of person), I’ll go back into Photoshop and adjust the image to better incorporate the text.

Multiple Spreads

Multiple Spreads

When it’s close to its final stage, I’ll export a low-res file and send it to the other co-founder of AO Books so he can look over it and bring a new perspective. Out of the entire process I think this is one of the most important parts. I am just one human, and after looking at the same project for several weeks it becomes very easy for me to miss things. Usually Chris will look over it and send back comments and we’ll go over them together. This back-and-forth will go on for as long as it’s needed. When it’s complete I’ll add the “book” information – ISBN (which I purchase from Bowker), the cover page, the pages dedicated to the charity we’re supporting through that book (for Mina’s book it is DIG), and then we send it out to CreateSpace for a proof copy.

DIG Logo

Click the Logo to learn more about DIG.

And that in a nutshell (okay, a very big nutshell) is my illustration process for vector illustrations. I hope you enjoyed learning about how I illustrate, but if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask them here, or contact me at saporcher050@gmail.com. And for more information on Aviator Owl Books, be sure to check out our website at aviatorowl.com where you can find free printable activities, all the books, and news about The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden, due out April 24th, 2015.

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