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11 Alternative Ways to Learn Your ABCs

Most teachers use the typical associations to teach the alphabet: A is for apple, B is for bear, C is for cat, and so on. (Z is usually Zebra.) But if you prefer walking off the beaten path, there is a wealth of alternative alphabets available to teach your children the ABCs.

1. The Hidden Alphabet by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

In her lift-the-flap picture book (and book trailer, above), Seeger not only uses less traditional associations, but she also hides the items within the shapes of the letters. A is for Arrowhead, the triangle in the A; P is for Partridge, the hollow in the P; and Q is for Quotation Mark, the center of the Q.

2. The Muppet Alphabet by Mike Boon


Boon, a graphic designer, created an alphabet in which the letters are formed from The Muppet Show characters. B is for Bunsen and Beaker, F is for Fozzie, and X is for Xomfey (a "Pink Stalk" from the show's pilot episode, "Sex and Violence"). You can purchase a T-shirt (from Threadless) or a poster (mini through gallery size at society6) featuring the alphabet.

3. SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod



As an illustrator and artist for both Marvel Comics and DC Comics, McLeod has his fair share of experience with superheroes. His children's picture book, SuperHero ABC, was named one of School Library Journal's "Best Books of the Year." It features Astro-Man, who's "always alert for an alien attack;" Bubble-Man, who "blows big bubbles at bullies" (as well as being a bald man who wears boots); and The Volcano, who "vomits on villains." His web site features SuperHero ABC activity pages as well as links to purchase T-shirts, posters, and other related merch.

4. The Alphabet of Geekdom by Nana Leonti


The "geekdom" alphabet by artist Nana Leonti features letters from the logos of popular geek brands/franchises, which Leonti hand-drew. M is for Magic: The Gathering, V is for V for Vendetta, and W is for Wonder Woman. You can purchase T-shirts and prints through redbubble.

5. The ABCs of Rock by Melissa Duke Mooney and Print Mafia



If you're too cool for the Alphabet of Geekdom, perhaps The ABCs of Rock is more your style. When Mooney, whose husband is in a band, couldn't find a suitable rock 'n' roll alphabet book for her daughters, she decided to create one herself. Near the end of the process, Mooney passed away unexpectedly from meningitis, but her husband and others finished the project in her honor. Associations from the rockin' picture book include B for Bowie (David, that is), F for Fleetwood Mac, and W for White Stripes.

6. The Official Fart Alphabet by Ralph Masiello and Stephanie Brockway


Masiello and Brockway's fart-centric alphabet features such gems as "Left Cheek Squeak," "Noxious," and "Silent But Deadly," and the letters are green gassy clouds.

7. Nerdy Baby ABCs by Tiffany Ard


The Nerdy Baby ABC flash cards feature associations such as A for Atom, B for Binary Code, and C for Cell Membrane, all beautifully drawn by children's artist Tiffany Ard. You can pick up a set in the mental_floss store.

8. My Foodie ABC by Puck and Violet Lemay



Puck's board book for "gastronomes in training" teaches both the alphabet as well as the foodie terms, with pronunciation guides and descriptions for all the terms and colorful illustrations by Lemay. P is for Pomegranate, Q is for Quinoa, and R is for Radicchio.

9. A is for Ackbar by Emma & Brandon Peat


The Peats initially designed this Star Wars-themed alphabet as wall hangings for their baby's bedroom. They later printed it up in book form to show family members and distribute as a thank you to those who contributed to their baby's college fund. Now, it just lives on Brandon's web site. C is for Chewie and C-3PO, E is for Ewoks, and L is for Luke and Leia. (There's also an official Star Wars ABC board book, but it's not nearly as adorable.)

10. The Alphabet 2 by n9ve

Independent design studio n9ve created this alphabet video experiment in which each letter visually represents the meaning of its word. B is a B-shaped biscuit, C is for Cell Animation, and the D, which explodes, is for Destruction. Check out their behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot, as well as their first alphabet video, in which each letter correlates to a font.

11. XYZ Blocks by Christian Northeast



These fun wooden alphabet blocks from Fred are "the alternative to ABC," with non-boring associations like K for Karate, T for Trailer, and U for Underpants. You can pick up a set in the mental_floss store.

11 alternative alphabets not enough for you? Don't worry, we're not stopping the fun. Head over to our "Alternative ABCs" board on Pinterest for more alphabety goodness. And if you've seen a good one, let us know in the comments and we'll add it to the board.

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Why Reading Aloud Helps You Remember More Information
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If you're trying to commit something to memory, you shouldn't just read the same flashcard over and over. You should read it aloud, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

The research, published in the journal Memory, finds that the act of reading and speaking text aloud is a more effective way to remember information than reading it silently or just hearing it read aloud. The dual effect of both speaking and hearing helps encode the memory more strongly, the study reports. The new research builds on previous work on the so-called production effect by Waterloo psychologist Colin MacLeod, who is also one of the current paper's authors.  

The current study tested 95 college students over the course of two semesters, asking them to remember as many words as possible from a list of 160 nouns. At one session, they read a list of words into a microphone, then returned two weeks later for a follow-up. In some situations, the participants read the words presented to them aloud, while in others, they either heard their own recorded voice played back to them, heard recordings of others reading the words, or read the words silently to themselves. Afterward, they were tested to see how much they remembered from the list.

The participants remembered more words if they had read them aloud compared to all other conditions, even the one where people heard their own voices reading the words. However, hearing your own voice on its own does seem to have some effect: it was a better memory tool for participants than hearing someone else speak, perhaps because people are good at remembering things that involve them. (Or maybe, the researchers suggest, it's just because people find it so bizarre to hear their own recorded voice that it becomes a salient memory.)

The findings "suggest that production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component," the researchers write. "This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering: We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice. When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember."

The message is loud and clear: If you want to remember, you should both read it and speak it aloud.

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The Brooklyn Public Library is Now Home to a Tiny Mollusk Museum
Courtesy of MICRO
Courtesy of MICRO

The Brooklyn Public Library is one of America’s largest public libraries—and now, its lobby is home to what’s being billed as the world’s smallest mollusk museum (and its first, no less). The vending machine-sized installation contains 15 different educational “displays,” all of which highlight fun facts about bivalves, snails, octopuses, and other soft-bodied creatures, according to The Washington Post.

Installed on November 10, the mollusk museum is the brainchild of Amanda Schochet, a computational ecologist, and media producer Charles Philipp. In 2016 they co-founded MICRO, a nonprofit organization that makes and distributes compact science museums.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

“Science museums are amazing,” the duo said in a video about their company, which is supported by Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation. “There’s just not enough of them. They’re all in wealthier neighborhoods. It’s fundamentally important for everyone to have access. So we decided to reinvent the museum, taking everything that we love about museums and putting it inside a box that can go anywhere.”

The factory-made museums are designed in collaboration with scientists, and created using 3D printing techniques. They’re easily reproduced, and can be set up anywhere, including libraries, airports, or even the DMV.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The BPL’s Smallest Mollusk Museum is MICRO’s first public project. Why mollusks, you might ask? For one thing, they survive in every habitat on Earth, and have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. Plus, a mollusk museum of any type—large or small—didn’t exist yet, as Schochet learned after she once misheard Philipp say he was going to the world’s “mollusk museum.” (He was instead going to the “smallest” one, located inside a Manhattan elevator shaft.)

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum is “packed with exhibits including miniature movie theaters, 3D-printed sculptures of octopus brains and leopard slug hugs, optical illusions showing visitors what it’s like to experience the world as mollusks, and a holographic mollusk aquarium,” Schochet tells Mental Floss. “We've identified nearly 100,000 species of mollusks, but there could be as many as 200,000—they’re all around us, all the time. Every one of them is a lens onto a bigger universe.”

Librarians have also joined in on the mollusk mania, prepping an accompanying series of books for kids and adults about the many creatures featured in the museum's exhibits.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum will gradually circulate through several of the library system’s branches. Meanwhile, MICRO’s next public offering will be a second mollusk museum, which will open in the Ronald McDonald House in New York City in December 2017. Additional locations and projects—including a small physics museum called the Perpetual Motion Museum—will be announced soon.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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