homemade alphabet book: get personal with the abc’s

There’s been a ton of little things that we’ve done over here to help Maddy, Owen, and Cora learn the letters of the alphabet, but I have to say that an all-time favorite of theirs has to be their Homemade Alphabet Books.

And really, the Homemade Alphabet Books are not all that crazy, gorgeous, or special.

But they are made exclusively by each kiddo, with photos and pictures chosen by them, with ribbons and colors and everything chosen by them as well. The Homemade Alphabet Books are theirs.

And though Maddy and Owen are long past needing–or reading–their books, they still like to look back at the photos they chose way back when they were ‘so, so little’ and my little Cora keeps adding to her book every few days.

It’s fun–it’s easy, and it’s totally worth your time.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Homemade Alphabet Books: Making these books is super-easy.  Using them is just as important.

Alphabet Books are just that–books that have a page for each letter of the alphabet: one page with the uppercase and lowercase letter and the facing page with child-chosen pictures, drawings, photographs of images that begin with that letter.

I used old printer paper that my mom gave me, but any paper will do.  My kids love watching me make books–though we have a ton of cheapo notebooks in our house, they really seem to like books made ‘especially for them’ or in this case, by them.

We count out 28 sheets of paper–one for each letter of the alphabet and one for a front and back cover.   And the construction of the book is simple:


Creating the skeleton of the book is easy.  But building the book, filling each page, is a work in progress.

It’s not something that can be done in one day, by any means.

When I was tutoring, I’d often make one of these Homemade Alphabet Books with my little guys–especially my struggling readers–and we’d focus on one or two letters each session. And each time we added a new letter or two, we’d first read the previous pages, beginning with the cover and going through each and every page, pointing as we read the words: Colin’s Alphabet Book. .  A, a (we’d say the letter and then the sound), airplane! Apple! Alligator! 

We’d point to each picture that began with that letter as we said the name of each object.  For some kids, this Alphabet Book was literally the only thing they could read, but it was that teeny, tiny piece they needed to grow confidence and build a solid foundation of literacy learning and phonological awareness.

By the time they finished with letters X, Y, and Z, they memorized the first half of the book.  Which is awesome because if they forever remembered D, d, dog! duck! dolphin! donut! –words that began with certain letters–it gave them something.

Those words and those sounds belonged to them.  Finally, they ‘owned’ a little piece of reading.  A small book.  Their book.  And they were one step closer to really being able to put multiple sounds together to read words on a page.

Jewels–among other things–for letter ‘J’. . .

. . . icecream and iceskates for ‘I’. . .

. . . Grandma and Grandpa start off Cora’s ‘G’ page!

One thing I love about this activity is that it can really be child-directed.  There are some weeks when Cora wants to work on finishing her Alphabet Book for three afternoons straight.  And then days–or weeks–pass and she doesn’t pick it up.

But when she finally does, it’s like she’s reunited with an old friend.  Mommy! Remember the day I cut out the pictures of Grandma and Grandpa? They are here on the page for ‘G’!

Some days she’ll just want to cut out pictures and glue them in the next day.  And other days, she’ll pick and choose the letters she wants to do, depending on her mood, the weather, or what she finds in a magazine or photograph.

And other days, she just wants to flip through her Alphabet Book, reading the letters and saying the pictures to herself between playing dress-ups or coloring, and that’s fine, too.  It doesn’t really matter. . . after all, it’s hers!

That’s it–just a teeny, tiny bit of fun alphabet learning. . . with a whole lot of room to move, depending on how old your little ones are.

Alphabet books are generally designed for the “development of phonemic awareness through alliteration and assonance in emergent and beginning readers” and follow a very standard pattern of “a single focal letter and accompanying text with illustrations.”  However, I’m totally psyched about the different ways to expand upon these seemingly simple texts–and I cannot wait to play with them a bit with Maddy, Owen, and Cora over the next few weeks and months.  More to come!

And huge thanks to Evers, A. J., Lang, L. F. and Smith, S. V. (2009), An ABC Literacy Journey: Anchoring in Texts, Bridging Language, and Creating Stories. The Reading Teacher, 62: 461–470. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.6.1 for the quote above and for providing more inspiring Alphabet Book ideas!





  1. says

    I just love this idea. The way that you have written and the pictures that you have embedded makes the article so easy for MOMS with young children. It would also be great for school children who are struggling.
    You might like some words that I have made at http://www.letterboxlearntoread.com
    They are high frequency words with pictures for the very young. I am sure that your children would enjoy them.
    Thanks for a great Blogg,
    Ann Foster

    • amy says

      Thanks so much, Ann! I appreciate you reading–and your kind feedback–and I look forward to checking out your site! Best to you!

  2. says

    Thank you for reminding me of this simple idea. The perfectionist in me tends to make things more complicated than needed. I am starting with a new client soon and this will make a perfect start! I also look forward to reading the Reading Teacher article. My Reading Teachers are sitting in a big pile and it is so helpful when you highlight a certain article…

    • amy says

      Stacey–No problem! I am so reliant on others for so many things, that I love when I come across ways of making my life more simple! Cheers, friend–and let me know how it goes with your client!

  3. Liz S. says

    Thanks for making the very important point that the kiddos may not want to complete their book at all once! I have made alphabet books with both my kids, ages 6 and 3, and their interest waxes and wanes in these items. In fact, I think we are still only up to letter K in my 3-year-old’s book. Thanks for reminding me that that is OK!

    • amy says

      Liz–you got it! I’d LOVE to see yours, too, to just show families that there are also different ways of crossing the same bridge! Feel free to share on facebook.com/teachmama — thanks so much for reading, my friend!!

  4. says

    You are starting your children in the way to being bloggers, I can see it now “The A to Z bog of (subject here, law, Cora’s Ballet School, and so on). Really, this is individualized learning at its best. No learning can take place without emotion, and including things like jewels and photos of Grandparents helps children really connect with and remember the learning. Thanks for a wonderful idea. Carolyn

  5. Moriyah Shalom says

    Thanks for a great idea!! For my kids, English is a second language since we don’t live in the US (shame on me since I am American). They are 8, 6 and 4 and I decided that it is high time I focus on their English. I will hang the ABC’s up and make this book a project for them. We also have the “learning to read in 100 days” book, which I heard was very effective. You have a great blog!

    • amy says

      Moriyah! You are so welcome–you have no idea what I’d do to have my kids speak a second language, my friend! And yours are so young, I bet their English will be perfect in no time!
      Many thanks for reading, and huge thanks for writing!

  6. Susan says

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog!! And look forward to each brilliant fun learning idea! My 4 1/2 year old Emily started an alphabet book and couldn’t put it down. She wanted to finish in one sitting. She eventually finished the next day, and she was so excited the whole time. What a wondrous idea, Amy! Thanks for sharing to us :)

    • amy says

      Thank you, Susan~~ What a riot that your little one wanted to finish in one day–such a good reminder that all kiddos are different, right?! Thank YOU for reading, and huge thanks for writing, my friend!!

  7. Kim Baumgart says

    I did this with my, now 11 year old, when she was in Kindergarten because she was struggling with letters. I used a scrapbook with paper pages. It really helped her and we have some great sentences and stories she dictated to me on those pages as well!

    • amy says

      KIM! Love the idea of sentences!! Perhaps we’ll go back and add them–love it!! Thank you so much, my friend!!

  8. Kathy Anderson says

    I appreciate your blog so much. Just started making an alphabet book for my soon to be three year old granddaughter’s birthday. It has photos of her since she was little(r) doing all sorts of things at home, the park, with family and friends and at the cabin. I have pictures for all but three of the letters, (and several for G as Elise has 3 great grandmas and 2 grandmas!) After reading your post I feel like I am on the right track, yay.

    • amy says

      Kathy! I LOVE that idea–you’re making the alphabet so personal and SO fun for her–I’d LOVE to see a page or two when you finish. . . yay for YOU!! (And happy birthday to your lucky granddaughter!!) Huge thanks for reading, and many thanks for taking the time to write!


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