ALPHABEASTIES ACTIVITY

I recently watched Jobs on Netflix. (Thankfully the streaming worked nicely, unlike the time I was watching World War Z, and the zombies were less terrifying compared to my utter frustration at Netflix.) The film was mediocre, but I did gain a little tidbit of Steve Jobs, which is accurate according to this and that. Simon Garfield (2011) writes:

He (Jobs) credited the people who made the cost of his academic life so expensive at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He said he dropped out to save his parents spending their entire life savings. And if he hadn't dropped out, he may not have discovered calligraphy.

'Throughout the campus,' he remembered at an address to students at Stanford in 2005, 'every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphied.' So, having dropped out and finding himself a free agent, he decided to take a class in this art. 'I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found fascinating.'

At the time, the student dropout believed that little he had learned would find a practical application in his life. But things changed. Ten years after college Jobs designed his first Mac, and it came with something unprecedented - a wide choice of fonts. Originally he hoped to do this on the cheap, and by enlisting the designer Susan Kare he created new bitmap designs that were available in a range of styles and sizes. The original thought was to name them after stops on a local Philadelphia train route close to where Kare had grown up, but Jobs then plumped for the more accessible notion of cities he loved: London, Chicago, Geneva, Toronto, Venice, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

So what's the point of this post, and how does it relate to reading? This alphabet book is the answer:

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I checked out Alphabeasties from the library days before I watched the movie. It was sitting in our blue bin, waiting to be read, and boy, am I glad I read it. This ABC book is eye catching, a feast for the artistic eye. But more than that, it's an intriguing way to introduce fonts and typography to young eyes and novice ones (plus future Steve Jobs geniuses). The book begins with a two-page explanation of typefaces (Did you ever notice that letters don't always look the same? to Even though typefaces might look different, the letter sounds don't change.), then when you turn the page - the magic begins. Letters are transformed into animals!

This book is useful because children acquire letter knowledge and reading skills through environmental print, or printed words that are a part of everyday life (i.e. When your child recognizes the golden arches and says, "McDonalds!" or a STOP sign). If we look around us, there's a plethora of typefaces around us. By introducing them earlier, children are exposed earlier which help them recognize different types quicker when they begin reading. Be warned, however, some of these typefaces will not be recognizable, and your child may have a difficult time figuring out what the animal is. This happened to us. My four-year-old couldn't recognize the animal, so I held the book about 2 feet away from him, and it magically made the fonts move into a unified picture.

Here's what we did to make the book come alive! We made our own alphabeasties from stamps.

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Steps:

  1. Select a letter, then choose an animal that begins with it. Malachi chose a fish. Then with a pencil, outline the shape.

  2. Stamp away.

  3. Keep stamping until . . .

  4. A fish emerges!

I erased the outline to make it look more professional. You could even take it a step further and frame it because it looks so cool. Enjoy and ch-ch-ch check out Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss.