The lovely people at Harper Collins have sent us two Hello Kitty workbooks. I have mixed feelings on workbooks but MG and DG like to play school and they like to have workbooks to use.
DG is at a stage where she’s only just starting to control her pencil strokes and producing circles and lines on purpose rather than just squiggles (I try not to compare her to MG who could write her name at the same age!) MG loves to write but some practice with forming letters on top of her story writing and schooling would be useful to her.
I also have mixed opinions about these two workbooks. Both books are luscious, with lots of colour throughout so they stand out from many other workbooks. Hello Kitty is a familiar character and instantly recognisable so these books are attractive to young children. There is also a Numbers book which we haven’t seen plus three dictionaries in the series. Matching stationery can be easily found for those who want to co-ordinate!
Starting to Write is aimed at 3-5 year olds and is pitched perfectly at the age range, starting with tracing straight lines, moving through curves and shapes before showing the correct formation of the lower case alphabet. The pages are colourful and inviting, there are lots of stickers (including several oversize characters) and the letter size is big enough to be clear on how to form them and uses a primary font that differentiates between b/d/p/q easily.
Alphabet Letters is also aimed at 3-5 year olds, but I think it’s more useful as an activity book than an alphabet learning tool. There is a page for each letter of the alphabet but no consistency between the activities, for example only a handful of pages offer the opportunity to write the letter. Each page is cluttered and it’s not clear from the picture what letter is being highlighted. The font used does not clearly differentiate between b/d etc and uses a straight line for l without a tail. The ‘l’ page also uses a very curvy font for handwriting that, to me, completely defeats the object of the entire book. Using the same font as the letters to trace in Starting to Write would have been preferable.
There are no guidance notes for parents on using the phonic sounds for the letters, which is the best starting point for children to understand the correspondence between the marks on paper and the words we speak. Some of the examples are not simple phonetic words (e.g. ice cream starts with the letter name sound rather than the letter sound; xylophone doesn’t have the /ks/ sound, although words starting with x are awkward…)
I really don’t think Alphabet Letters succeeds as a book to “learn your letters” but is an enjoyable activity book with lots to talk about in the pictures and plenty of stickers to use too.
I used both books with DG because MG is on the outer end of the age range for the books and would get less out of them whereas DG is very much at the start of the alphabet & writing experience. MG would still get something out of the writing book as some of her letter formations are out (e.g. backwards) but I’d prefer to use the whole book with one child!
DG really enjoyed the pictures and talking about everything in them. She proved to me my thoughts about Alphabet Letters. It was enjoyable for her as an activity book with lots to talk about and stickers to stick but trying to concentrate on one letter was impossible given the cluttered pages, she also found it hard to find the illustration of the example word for some letters because they weren’t obvious. As an activity book to colour, stick, draw and talk about the pictures this book is lovely, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an alphabet teaching book.
Conversely Starting to Write does the job perfectly. DG and I have gone through the whole book talking through the pictures with her pointing things out, and she’s traced some of the lines with her fingers. At the stage she’s at, she needs more fine motor practise to control her pen strokes, although she can do circles and lines but I stuck to following lines with fingers to start. This book will last us for a very long time going through all the different activities, and the colourful pictures are very appealing to DG.
These are visually appealing, fun books that don’t feel like workbooks and have lovely stickers too. I would recommend looking for them in a real bookshop rather than online to see whether they suit what you’re looking for but DG and I have had fun using them together.
Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Learn with Hello Kitty: Alphabet Letters and Learn with Hello Kitty: Starting to Write by Harper Collins Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.