In my Mission School, I offered as a prize a red shirt for the first Chief who knew the whole Alphabet without a mistake. It was won by an Inikahi Chief, who was once a terror to the whole community. Afterwards, when trying to teach the A B C to others, he proceeded in something like this graphic style: "A is a man's legs with the body cut off; B is like two eyes; C is a three-quarters moon; D is like one eye; E is a man with one club under his feet and another over his head; F is a man with a large club and a smaller one," etc., etc.; L was like a man's foot; Q was the talk of the dove, etc. Then he would say, "Remember these things; you will soon get hold of the letters and be able to read. I have taught my little child, who can scarcely walk, the names of them all. They are not hard to hold, but soft and easy. You will soon learn to read the book, if you try it with all your heart!"This description in our read-aloud today of how the Inikahi Chief learned the sounds and shapes of the letters of the alphabet reminds me a whole lot of the way Jemimah learned her alphabet using the H A Rey book, Curious George Learns the Alphabet. You can read about it here.
The Story of John G. Paton: Or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals by Rev. James Paton
In the book each letter is turned into an animal or common object beginning with that letter, in much the same way as the Chief assigned an object to his. To this uncivilised cannibal, an F looked like a man with one large club and one small one; to George the big F looks like a fireman fighting a fire with his leg out straight.To the Chief a B is two eyes; to George it is a blue bird with a fat tummy.
For a long time after Jemimah learned to read she would spell out a word and say Y - yak or W - whiskers and I would know that she was visualising the shape from the Curious George book. The book and its way of depicting the letters certainly played a major part in my daughter learning how to read easily and painlessly.
Obviously from today's story, she is not the first to learn by this process.
Letters, in the delightful words of that Inikahi Chief, "... are not hard to hold, but soft and easy. You will soon learn to read the book, if you try it with all your heart!"
You can buy Curious George Learns the Alphabet as an iPad app now, if you've any small people who are at that stage. I haven't seen it, but if it is anything like the book, then it'll be great.