Name Books

Name puzzles

In my kindergarten class I have a wide range of learners – from the few who aren’t quite sure what a letter is to the few who are fluently reading Hattie and the Fox. I’m sure many of you can relate to this! I was reflecting on my work with the kids who had no known letters, or only a few, and wondering what our next steps were. I always start with the known, so names were my launching point. We did many name activities and these students were beginning to consistently know a few letters from their names. I wanted to create a book with them to keep in their book box and to help reinforce the teaching I was doing. These particular students were not quite ready to start an ABC book like the ones Pat and I refer to in Chapter 6 of Catching Readers. Since they had very limited letter knowledge, (2-5 known letters), I wanted to start with something more in their ZPD. So I decided to make them a “name book”.

“For almost every young learner, knowledge of one’s name unlocks a multitude of understandings. A name forms a link in helping a child learn about print.”

(Fullerton, 1997)

The cover of a name book.

I made the books with enough pages for each letter in the child’s name and one additional title page. I wrote the full name (first name only – for now) on the cover, making the capital letters red and the lowercase letters blue. Then I put a picture of the child on the cover as well. On the inside pages I wrote the letters of the child’s name – one per page – again with the capital in red and the lowercase in blue. I sat down with each child as I created this and the child chose links (pictures or words) to go with each letter. They either put a sticker on that page or drew a picture. These books can now be read with the children, read independently and kept in book boxes or read with a buddy. Currently, I only made name books for my children who are working on learning their names and the letters in their names. But I think all the children would enjoy having one of these books. It would make a great book basket for our reading area and would allow children to learn each other’s names.The first page of Sophia's name book.

Some other concepts that can be taught by using names and the name books:

*The connections between letters and sounds

*That letters can be written in two ways (upper and lower case, like David)

*The same sound can be represented by different letters (Jasmin, Gerald)

*Concept of word vs. letter (“Jose’s name is a word. How many letters are in this word? Let’s count them.”)

*Long and short words (“Jackeline’s name is a long word, Bo’s name is a short word.”)

*Words have parts (“Let’s clap Alexander’s name. Let’s clap Ann. How many parts?”)

Names are such a powerful tool for teaching in the early grades. How else are you using children’s names to teach?


  1. Letter books are often where I begin with these students too (one word per page of a letter from their name). I love this idea and especially the involvement the students had in making the books. Great suggestion!

  2. For my kindergarteners who don’t know their letters I write each child’s name on a sentence strip, saying each letter as I write it. Then I cut the names apart and have the student put his or her own name together and spell their name while pointing to each letter. I write each name on another sentence strip, then give the full name and the cut apart letters to another student in the group and they put each other’s names together. Then the child and I spell the new name together, pointing to each letter as we go. We also put all the letters out on the table and give each student the sentence strip with someone else’s name. The students have to find the letters they need to spell the names. Then we spell the names together.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I never thought about making my kids with low letter ID a name book instead of an ABC book! I am so excited to get to school tomorrow and work with my 5 kids in exactly this predicament! Just as a side note—even though they have a low letter ID (1-5 letters) they are writing every single day and doing great. They use all kinds of links to help them and even though they know only a few letters they can say words slowly and hear the sounds! Thanks again for this great way to help our kids feed forward!

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