J Is for January, Jonah, Jasmine, Jennifer and Jaxon!

Focus on First Name Letters for Print Knowledge This Month

Learning how to read is as complex (and at times as frustrating) as learning how to drive a stick-shift – in the snow – on a hill.

As parents and caregivers, you can start giving your children some of the tools that will help make that learning process smoother when it’s time to tackle the learning-how-to-read beast. Think of it as helping your future self help your child’s future self.

Simply reading, talking, singing, writing and playing every day is the best thing you can do to activate the necessary knowledge and skills that your future first grader will need.

But within those activities, there are other easy and fun ways to make sure young children are fueling the engine that will make reading success easier for them when it’s time to start driving that stick-shift.

One of my favorites is to find, read and explore books that feature the letter of your child’s first name.

(Not sure how to do this? Ask a friendly librarian how to use limiters in the library’s catalog at tccl.bibliocommons.com)

The official reading-education name for this skill is “Print Knowledge” and “Print Awareness.” It usually starts with the A-B-C song but can also involve isolating and learning individual letters one at a time.

Because children (well, and all humans) are largely preoccupied with themselves, starting this print knowledge journey is best by focusing on their own names. Once they can identify the first letter of their first name in various print sources – including restaurant signs and billboards – you can expand the letter search to other letters in their name.

“J” Books

In honor of January, let’s look at some great “J” books that might stimulate the interest of children with “J” names. (We’re looking at you, Jayla, Jasmine, Javon and Jaxon)

BONUS TIP: After you have read the book through several times, you might want to just look at each page together and point out – or have your child point out – all of the capital Js. This is also a great introduction to writing the letter, whether in crayon, paints or even shaving cream on a table or cookie sheet.

Eat Your Peas, Julius!: Even Caesar Must Clean His Plate written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Fiona Lee.

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Mix some history with whimsy and a focus on food with this “J” Julius (Julius Caesar, Roman emperor, that is) book. Boiled camel feet…yum?

Jo Bright and the Seven Bots written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt.

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In this updated version of the classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves story, futuristic Jo is aces at making bots and thwarting the angry queen with the help of her friendly dragon!

Just the Way You Are written and illustrated by Emma Dodd.


Unconditional love is a beautiful thing – whether it’s from a human or tiger parent!

Florence Griffith Joyner written by Rita Williams-Garcia and illustrated by Gillian Flint.

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Teach your child more about real-life athlete “Flo-Jo” and the challenges she overcame to achieve a number of world records in track and field.

The Disappearing Mr. Jacques written by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud.

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In what can only be termed “trippy,” this clever book features a magician who appears, disappears and re-appears in fun and surprising ways.

John’s Turn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Kate Berube.

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It takes a lot of courage to show off a new skill to other kids in a talent show – and even more so if you are John and want to share ballet moves. A lovely exploration of both dance and celebrating differences.

Just Try One Bite written by Adam Mansbach and Camila Alves McConaughey and illustrated by Mike Boldt.


A humorous turn-about where children must convince their parents to try healthy food choices.

Laura Raphael is the Children’s Services Coordinator for the Tulsa City-County Library system.

Jan 2023 Books Pin

Categories: Books and Literacy, Features