Remember when the most creative alphabet book was Dr. Seussí ABC? I still love the yawning yellow yak! However, alphabet books have taken over the publishing world in the last few years, and there is a lot more than learning the alphabet involved these days.
http://www.sleepingbearpress.com/States.asp will take you to a publisher who is combining the alphabet with geography, and much, much more! Start with A is for America by Devin Scillian. In addition to information which corresponds to the alphabet, each page has additional information about the country. It reminds me, in that way, of the Magic School Bus books, where more than one story is going on at the same time. I read MSB books 3 times, taking one story line each time, rather than trying to fit it all into one reading. I do the same with the alphabet books.
A nice touch from the artist is that some of the upper right corners of a pair of pages are painted to look as if they are turned back, with an extra little picture which is a symbol of America, including a horn for jazz. The text-to-text connection that could be made here goes to the Jan Brett books, where the borders of the page have a story going, too.
I didnít read all of this, or any of the state alphabet books weíve read, in one sitting. Thereís too much room for discussion to try to speed through it, especially if your children are young enough not to already know the symbols and the context for the information. You might want to "bless" this book, as Linda Gambrell and Deb Smith say, by reading a small part and then letting excellent readers borrow it from you. It is not solely a picture book, and the reading level is quite high.
Next, pick your favorite state! 21 states are available at the present time, along with One Nation and 3 states in counting books. Each one is filled with wonderful information, fantastic artwork, and special little tidbits about the state. I know our bookís author, G is for Grand Canyon, is still making the rounds as a guest author. Yours may be, as well. Check your local Young Authorís conference for their attendance, too.
The geography and social studies connections are obvious. What a great writing opportunity, too! After reading the America book and at least one other, your class could write their own alphabet book about your city, county, or neighborhood. Older students could write the informational part as well as the alphabet part. Or if you have reading buddies, what fun to pair them up for the younger student doing the alphabet part and the older one doing the information!
The writing traits are strong in the books Iíve seen. Each one is written by a different author, someone familiar with that state. The word choice and ideas traits would be excellent teaching points, and, of course, organization is a given. Take the time, and spend the money (Each book is available only in hardcover and is about $17 and up. The America book is $23.) to get your favorite states. It is well worth it!
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