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LibGuide: Alphabet Books

 Today, we often take the existence of alphabet books for granted, seeing them as the best and most entertaining way to teach children the alphabet. However, alphabet books as we know they today are actually a 19th century invention, and reflect the various changes in cultural and religious attitudes toward children that occurred during the course of the century. The history of alphabet books is also intimately tied with the overall history of children's literature; the following resources are useful starting points for research into both alphabet books and historical children's literature .

Useful Databases

  • Academic Search Complete
  • America History & Life
  • MLA International Bibliography

Digitized Children's Literature


Hunt, P., & Butts, D. (Eds.). (1995). Children's literature: An illustrated history. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  • Abstract: This book, edited by Hunt and Butts, containing chapters written by different scholars, traces the history of children's literature from its early beginnings through the present day. It includes excelent images and examples of historical children's literature throughout. 

Steinfirst, S. (1976). The origins and development of the ABC book in English from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century (Doctoral dissertation). University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

  • Abstract: In this doctoral dissertation, Steinfirst traces the development of alphabet books from the middle ages through the present. It is one of the few in-depth works focusing specifically on historical alphabet books.