CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003
Learning the alphabet and counting to 10 are often among the first bits of unofficial home schooling that toddlers receive, with board books frequently being their "textbooks" of instruction. As well, through repeated practice, the young children learn the "right side up" of books and that they are "read" front to back. In My First Canadian ABC, each letter of the alphabet is connected to its position as the initial letter of the objects used to illustrate it. The letters are shown in their lower case version in the top corner of the appropriate page and then both in upper and lower case at the bottom of the page. The letters A, B, C, P and S are each provided with double page spreads containing photographs of 9-13 objects while the rest of the letters, with two exceptions, receive but a single page and 3-6 objects. X and Y share a page and have one and two objects respectively.
In the main, the objects selected to represent the letters have been well chosen and incorporate very familiar items along with others that will possibly expand the child's vocabulary. For example, the letter A's photos consist of an apple, acorns, ants, armchair, apron, ambulance, airplane, avocado and astronaut. The only A example which may be problematic is the astronaut which is actually a child in a costume which could be confused with being that of a robot. Each item, however, is labeled, and so the person "reading" the alphabet book to the child can correct any misinterpretations. One of the least successful pages is the double spread for P in which the pyjamas are not clearly nightwear, the popcorn lacks definition, and the potty could be many things. Similarly, the only two objects connected with Y will likely be unclear to the young child. The view of the yo-yo lacks perspective and will possibly be identified as a balloon or an M&M [with a string on it] while the bowl of yogurt looks like melted ice cream. All of a letter's objects are displayed against a solid colour background, and adults could use these backgrounds for teaching colours. The closing double page spread provides the full alphabet with just one object for each letter.
Given that the two books were creatively produced in Britain (the A airplane is British Airways) and were printed in China, it is somewhat difficult to understand why both include the word "Canadian" in their titles. That quibble aside, both should be in any setting serving toddlers, and both would make excellent gifts for new parents (or "old" parents who do not yet own the two board books).
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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