Growing Bookworms: Making learning the alphabet fun

Growing bookworks Jan 2020

In the Southern hemisphere, January is the time of year when our children start a new school year. This year, my youngest son is starting secondary (high) school which means, new environment, new friends, new teachers – just about new everything. He is anxious about it and I keep reminding him that the groundwork for this transition to high school has been laid over many years of nursery, pre-prep and prep school and he is well equipped to deal with the changes.

Sitting with him over the past few weeks of his holiday (and mine) and ensuring he reads [and understands] his first high school English set work book and his first Afrikaans (second language) reader, I was reminded of when I taught both my boys to read when they were six years old. In South Africa, children only start reading when they are seven, but my boys were keen to read and I saw no reason why I, with two degrees and the equivalent of a masters, couldn’t teach them something so common place. Ha! It proved to be significantly harder than I expected and I take my hat off to pre-prep teachers who teach children to read so effortlessly. For me it was a slog. Of course, it didn’t help that I forgot to start by teaching Gregory the alphabet. I am not sure how I thought he would read words before he could recognise his letters, but somehow, it slipped with me. Despite my only teaching Greg the alphabet after I taught him his first two hundred sight words, he still learned to read quickly and is now an accomplished reader. I can no longer say he is a prolific reader as, at seventeen years old, he is not that keen on reading at the moment. Hopefully it will change down the line when the allure of being the same as everyone else wears off.

Anyhow, these memories led me to thinking how important knowing the alphabet and learning the sounds is for children as they travel the path towards literacy.

My boys and I had a lot of fun learning the alphabet. Michael, aged three, got to sit in on Greg’s (aged six) lessons, and Greg (aged nine) got to help Michael (aged six), when he started his reading journey. One of our favourite past times, when Greg was learning, was singing the alphabet song:

Greg, Michael and I also used our time in the car to learn the alphabet. We played a game called “I spy” and we would each chose an item that started with a certain letter and the others would have to guess what it was. This game was a lot of fun and we played it for a number of years. The boys used to ask for it when we traveled. Now they ask for audio books and we listened to an awful lot of Eva Ibbotson books when we toured Scotland in August 2019.

The third fun activity we played to learn the alphabet was to bake an item that started with a certain letter. It had to be an exact sound match so, we couldn’t for example, make gingerbread for the letter “g”. This game and tasting session was very popular and sometimes we invited friends over to join in the fun. I specifically remember making jelly cakes [have you ever heard of those – if not you will find the recipe in Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook.


Multicoloured jelly cupcakes

The nice thing about baking with children is that it is also a wonderful opportunity to teach them maths concepts like grams and kilograms and millilitres and litres. They also learn to weigh and measure and realise the importance of being exact. I even taught mine about ounces and pints as some of my cook books use English measures.

Do you know any fun games to teach children the alphabet? Let me know in the comments.

About Robbie Cheadle


Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle



Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

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