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A-Z Birds of North America: For Beginning Bird Watchers to Copy in Slant Print

By Joy Marie Dunlap
LightHome Publications

If, like us, you enjoy Italic style handwriting as well as nature study, this e-book offers the perfect combination. Two years ago, we became a family of bird watchers and spent hours learning about the birds in our area. As we continue to learn more about birds, we are enjoying the added benefit of related copywork with this e-book. Joy Marie Dunlap begins her book with a one-page introduction to the activity of bird watching, offering suggestions and encouragement for homeschooling families. Her practical suggestions are helpful, and her family's nature study experiences may connect with some readers.

Holding true to its title, this 63-page book includes pages for birds that represent each letter in the alphabet, though a few letters are found in the middle of the word rather than as the first letter. Mute Swan, for example, represents the letter "U," which my children thought was a creative way to work with a challenging letter. Other birds highlighted in the book include the cardinal, eagle, heron, junco, oriole, quail, vireo, waxwing, and bronzed cowbird (representing "Z").

For each bird, there is a student copywork page that includes a factual paragraph in slant print text about a bird, with a color illustration of the bird accompanying it. Below this are about eight blank lines for copying. The lines have a dotted midline for ease of use. While we do not use a "slant print" style for our handwriting lessons, we can easily adapt the text and use our own Italic style. Since the original text is very legible, the copywork could be done using any handwriting style, though the child would need to be familiar with the letter forms of your chosen method in advance.

Nearly every page suggests that the student find as many words as possible from the letters in the bird name. Sometimes there is space available on the page for this activity, and sometimes other activities are provided to help children play with the letters. Following the copywork activity is a coloring page highlighting that same bird. I was pleased to see that the style of these pages varies, and references to over a dozen bird coloring books are included on one of the final pages. Answers to a few of the word puzzles are available on this same page.

One of the major drawbacks to an e-book of this nature is that many pages need to be printed to use the book effectively, which can make the book more costly, especially since the copy-work pages include beautiful color images of the birds. To solve this problem, I chose to print the book in black and white and to look at the color images on the computer screen with my children before using the printed pages. Another option would be to simply print only the pages related to the birds you choose to study.

Despite the cost of printing, this book has a lot of value for our family, and the benefit of having permission to make copies for our personal needs is an excellent advantage. We expect to enjoy it as both handwriting practice and nature study for years to come.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2009

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