If you’d like to create a class alphabet book or a school-wide alphabet book, this little primer
will help you get started.
THE ABCs OF A LOCAL ABC BOOK
- One of the most fun and interesting things a class might do first, if there’s enough time to accomplish the whole project in a leisurely fashion, is to check into all the different kinds of ABC books, starting with the very earliest American ones (which taught piety along with the letters). There are lots of examples in libraries. Look at the various approaches, from simple “letter equals object” alphabets to more complicated alphabets. What, if anything, are they teaching? Also look at the various rhyme/rhythm schemes. Count them out. Talk about why rhyme and rhythm help memory.
- Determine by class discussion the theme of your ABC book. Then begin to research the possibilities for each letter and its poem, perhaps assigning batches of letters to each class and keeping in mind that choosing always entails a process of elimination. This is perhaps the hardest part of the project. With only 26 letters, every decision “uses up” a letter and eliminates its other possibilities as the poem’s chief subject. (One way to help solve that dilemma is to include the “rejected” topics in a prose sidebar.) Your book might be all about your town. It might be just animals or birds. It might focus on weather or family or holidays.
- Use all the resources you have at your disposal: friends and family who remember (interview then using notebooks and tape recorders), town and state Historical Societies, the town library, the internet’s search engines… assign “sub-teams” to research topics.
- After having read and analyzed various ABCs, choose one (or more) patterns for your book. Patterns involve rhyme scheme and rhythm scheme. Be sure to keep checking back with your favorite books. There’s no problem with “copying” patterns.
- Decide what to include and exclude in the “prose facts” part of each letter page.
- Write the first draft of the book, leaving plenty of time for discussion, critique and revision.
- Think about illustrations. This task might be assigned to the school’s self-identified artists. Design a cover.
- Choose an editor to look over your final version.
- Thank in writing—on the first page—everyone who helped you put your book together.
- Plan an event when you will unveil your Alphabet Book. Schedule a public reading of the book by the authors/illustrators, perhaps in conjunction with a display of the original artwork. Have copies available for sale (decide ahead of time how much you want to sell copies for…and what you’ll do with the profits!). Have authors present at the event to sign copies.