As expectant parents looking for children's reading materials, Burlingame’s Rebecca Kovan and husband Dan MacIntyre quickly grew frustrated with the selection of alphabet books available. While searching for a book that shared life concepts rather than simple words (in the A is for Apple, B is for Boat fashion) and coming up short, the two had an idea. Rather than begrudge the nonexistence of the ideal book, they would author their own.
“I said, ‘you know what? I’ve been writing poetry ever since I could hold a crayon…I’m just going to give this a go,” said Kovan, whose son is now four and a half. “With that 26-letter format, it was just a tremendous opportunity to look at what kind of things I wanted [my son] to know and what kind of things I wanted him to embody.”
Under the names Dr. Bee and Hobo Dan, the duo penned Alphabet Living, pairing each letter with a word of moral importance (A is for Authentic, G is for Gratitude) through the characters Abby, Zeke and dog Ay2zee. Each word has a four-stanza poem and illustration elucidating its meaning. In addition to teaching the alphabet, the book teaches children values.
“Children understand so much more than we give them credit for, and if we just talked to them like we’d talk to anybody else, they’d get it,” said Kovan, a clinical psychologist. “I feel like we’re in this constant state of dumbing things down.”
Throughout the writing process, Kovan said the duo hit some roadblocks, mainly in choosing the right word for each letter. They struggled with compassion versus courage for C, but found room for compassion in K is for Kindness’s poem. Another hard one was H and the options of health, humor or healing (they went with humor).
Although the book represents ideals the parents want instilled in their child, Kovan said they stopped short of trying to sell a message.
“We are not trying to force feed anything,” she said. “All we’re trying to do is put forward simple truths that have been around thousands of years and let people resonate with it however they resonate with it.”
“We’re not trying to preach to anybody,” he said. “[We’re] trying to find the commonality between people instead of our differences.”
He said the pen names referring to a hobo and a doctor allow for that inclusivity, another important value the book teaches.
The self-publishing pair anticipates the book arriving in their hands by the first week of September. They sold more than 330 books using Kickstarter and continue selling copies on their website. Additionally, they plan on spending time promoting the book before their son starts kindergarten next August, hopefully on an independent bookstore tour across the country.
“We’re really just getting rolling,” Kovan said. She said since each letter in their book represents a noun, they’re considering another book of the same format using verbs, instead.
Although the book holds great teaching capacity and approaches the alphabet in a new way, MacIntyre said there was more behind the book than just providing moral guidelines.
“First and foremost, I want parents to go back to reading books to their children,” MacIntyre said. “There’s something really profound and powerful for a parent or aunt or uncle or a grandpa to read to a child…[we’re] trying to get back to that.”