Early Literacy & Empowerment


4 and up

  • Literacy
  • Letter Identification
  • Emergent Readers
  • Diverse Bookshelves
  • Phonemic Awareness

Cards: Diveation

Book: Colette Hiller & Tor Freeman


It’s no secret that kids learn better when they feel happy, seen, and empowered. When I was a classroom teacher, we had a literacy curriculum we followed to help students learn and sound out letters (as the majority of early childhood classrooms do). The program was fine, but I felt like it could have done so much more and connected to other activities outside of the specific literacy activity.

When I was approached by a small business owner who wanted to address this very issue I had experienced, I was intrigued and excited to check out Erica’s product. She’s created literacy flashcards that connect to authors of color and suggest one of their books to read. On one side of the card is a capital and lowercase letter, and on the other is an author’s name that begins with that letter as well as one of their books. This system lends itself to wonderful extension activities, “reading the alphabet” classroom challenges, and an integration of a wide range of authors into the early childhood classroom.

The cards themselves are very sturdy and colorful, and came in a box which is super helpful if they were to be stored in an accessible classroom area or on a shelf. I’m really pleased with the quality and contents of these cards, and the way that these authors can empower students with identities that are similar. Like books, these cards can be used as a window and a mirror. I can definitely have seen myself letting students pick a letter card to choose a book for a read aloud, using them to collect and sort objects, or organize the classroom bookshelves into alphabetical order. There are several sets of flashcards available, and I urge you to check out Erica’s website!

I thought a good pairing for these wonderful flashcards was a book that I have titled The B on your Thumb, which is a collection of poems to help with reading and spelling. Learning phonemic awareness and emergent literacy skills are first learning letters, and then learning the correlating sounds. Which can be super tricky, because English is not an easy language! These poems are short, colorfully illustrated, and the letters the poem is about are in different colored text to assist in emphasizing identification.

The book is broken down into categories like sounds, silent letters, and words that sound the same. This would have been helpful for me in a classroom because we could focus on a particular section of the book depending on where we were in the literacy curriculum, and lessons could be scaffolded for different groups of students.

Both of these would be excellent additions to the classroom, especially integrating books by tons of different authors and concerted effort to include BIPOC, LGBTQ, and disabled creators.

The book was kindly sent by Quarto, and the cards were sent by Diveation. All opinions and decision to review is my own!

Colette Hiller

Colette Hiller is a writer, arts producer and mother of twins. Her arts projects have reached hundreds of thousands of participants – she is the woman who put pianos and ping-pong tables in countless locations across the UK, and is also the mind behind the hit Talking Statues project.

Her children’s rhymes have been featured on BBC Words and Pictures and her children’s LP, Applehead, has been a hit with kids across the world, selling over 50,000 copies.

An advocate of early learning, Colette believes that even very young children are receptive to the joy of wordplay. She taught her own twins to read by the time they were three.

Tor Freeman

Tor Freeman is an author, illustrator and comic artist. Over the last 19 years, she has illustrated picture books and chapter books, written her own stories and been published in the UK and worldwide. She is a regular contributor to magazines including Tralalire, Pomme d’Api and the weekly story comic, The Phoenix. 

In 2012 she was awarded a Sendak Fellowship, and together with two other illustrators spent a month in Connecticut. In November 2017 she was the winner of the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize.

Tor’s most recent books include the Digby Dog series, The Toucan Brothers and an all-ages comic, Welcome to Oddleigh. Tor lives in London and shares a studio in Soho.

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