The Madison Square Park Alphabet Project

By Jane Hanstein Cunniffe


THE GOAL: To create an Alphabet Book using area kids, Madison Square Park and the Parks Associates.

WHEN: Summer 2003. This two-day project will combine photography and learning with fun at the playground.
On a Tuesday and Thursday morning, Photographer, mother and children's book creator Jane Hanstein Cunniffe will
work with Parks Associates to bring good times, a positive learning experience, and media attention to the area.

WHERE: Just up the street from ABC Carpet, you'll find the Madison Square Park Alphabet Project.

WHY: The Alphabet Project could invent a new community tradition.
Pictures preserve and create memories. In this case, they would provide a fun learning book, a summer memento,
as well as a potential poster or fundraiser for the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

©2003 Jane Hanstein Cunniffe

Please note: this proposal is a work in progress.

Teach kids their ABCs by involving them in the process.

The digital camera is revolutionizing the way we take pictures.
Now we can take amazing pictures of children and miraculously turn them into learning books.
The two day project will involve kids, their parents and caregivers in an all-encompassing mission to create a dazzling Alphabet Book.

There will also be a brief tutorial and explanation about digital photography and the process we're using to make the book. The end result: One ABC book for the table at the park – filled with pictures of local kids, babies, and toddlers. Not to mention, showcasing the unique characteristics of Madison Square Park.

We'll take dozens of pictures with a digital camera to make sure we get all the shots we need, using all of the letters, and plenty of the children.


  It's as easy as

1. S is for Smile and Summer – as in have a great summer!
2. The Alphabet Project will be a group effort. Involving all the letters and kids who want to participate. The Park Associates will also play a big part in its success.
3. We'll take lots of pictures. H is for Hot Dog stand. Z is for Zebra. Kids will be assigned letters and props to assure we cover everybody.
4. The main purpose: Fun and Learning. But mostly fun.
5. The community will rally around the project. The result will be dazzling. One book will be provided to the Playground to guard, preserve and share with the community.
Production of a book or poster for everybody is more costly than possible in this case. So corporate sponsorship would be necessary, and perhaps likely, if the project takes off. It would also be something that could attract positive media coverage with a potential family event planned for the book's unveiling.
6. The Alphabet Project seems to be an accessible and worthwile undertaking for the Madison Square Park Playground's Summer Program.

THE ALPHABET PROJECT also involves singing and drawing.
A general celebration of letters!

Part of the project
will be giving parents
and caregivers
a simple overview
digital photography
& how to have more fun
taking pictures.


We'll even teach punctuation marks to older kids!



Applaud individuality! Get permission...
Kids are all cute. And they learn more when they get to participate in the process. Permission slips [model releases] would have to be given out a few weeks before the project and signed by the kids' parents giving their permission and allowing The Madison Square Playground and Jane Hanstein Cunniffe to use the pictures for this first ever Madison Square Alphabet Project.

Setting up a shot vs. capturing the moment: Both methods work well. In this case, we'll be creative, embark on a random series of photos with the children to celebrate the alphabet. We'll be using digital cameras, which means we won't be paying for film or to develop the pictures. So sky really is the limit. The only caveat is that printing the pictures is costly. Parents who want individual prints, will have the opportunity to check out [and purchase] pictures of their kids on as the project takes shape.


Making books for kids is as easy as 1-2-3.
In my son Henry’s case, that meant one Buddha, two policemen and three taxicabs. Making educational and creative books for your kids can be wonderful for the whole family. It also gives your child every possible advantage, building his or her self-esteem and providing an interactive way to learn numbers and letters.

There are all sorts of books you can make with your kids. Books about colors and books about holidays, books about boys who like dinosaurs and books about telling time. So why not a book about their favorite stomping ground? No matter how the Alphabet Project unfolds, it is sure to bring the children into the creative process in a positive and almost enlightened way.

It is in this spirit that we embark on this project. Two mornings with the kids taking pictures that become the 1st Annual Madison Square Park Alphabet Project.

B is for Bernadette. I brought the idea to Parks Associate Bernadette Woods.
She was genuinely intrigued.

Bernadette also happens to be exceptionally good with kids,
as well as a pretty good photographer in her own right.

If the project goes through, I would like very much for her to be part of it.


E is for Empire State Building. F is for Flat Iron.


Pictures preserve and create memories.
The Madison Square Park Alphabet Book starts a new tradition.

In a sense, taking more creative pictures makes for more creative memories. If you take your picture-taking a step further and create fun and educational books for kids, you have a great confidence-building learning resource in the short term. And long term, an irresistible and unique keepsake to share with your children, give to their grandparents and even pass on to their grandchildren. This also provides a great way to capture summer in the city and the renewed vitality of the Madison Square Park Playground.

                                                  – Jane Hanstein Cunniffe



                       D is for Dog.
 Bumper Sticker © Milton Glaser

The Madison Square Park
Alphabet Project.
You can make it happen

Speaking of which: R is for Ribs.


About Jane Hanstein Cunniffe

Jane Hanstein Cunniffe lives in New York City just a few blocks from Madison Square Park. Her boys Henry and Eli play there regularly. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Baby and she has lectured in Apple Computer's Made on a Mac Series.

Jane became a mother at 39, interrupting a career as an advertising copywriter. Staying home isn’t always easy, so she took lots of pictures of her kids. One thing lead to another. First it was Henry Counts, then Henry’s Delicious Alphabet. When her second son Eli was born, he too was the subject of a few thousand pictures and several books. Now she spends part of her time encouraging other parents to do the same and participating in community projects and fundraising efforts like this one. – Jane Hanstein Cunniffe’s Web site features eight children’s books, including Henry's Book of Clichés, 2nd Born, No Train for Henry! and ALPHaTRUCKS! a.k.a Trucks to Eli. You'll also find a few greeting cards.


To learn more click on any of the following underlined credits:

MARTHA STEWART BABYSpring 2003 • Profile of Jane Hanstein Cunniffe and the books she makes for and with her kids.

THE APPLE STORE – Made on a Mac Series speaker in New York City at the Apple Store SoHo on January 12, 2003 [and in Miami, FL on February 6]. Appearance listed in the KIDS section of New York Magazine.

HERE IS NEW YORK: a Democracy of Photographs – [Scalo. 864 pages. $49.95] • Contributed two photographs to this comprehensive record of the events of 9/11.

14th STREET Y PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT – "Hold your Horses! and other Clichés" • June 2, 2002 • One-woman show listed in Time Out New York and The New York Times

SMILING GOAT ADVERTISING – Photographs, Posters and Brochures for the 14th Street Y, Battery Park City Parenting and Family Center, Gani Nursery School, and Big City Kitchen.

ADVERTISING COPYWRITER [1986 to present] • print, TV, radio and the Internet for BellSouth DSL, Lipitor, CBS, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Hertz, IBM, Alka-Seltzer Plus, Pfaltzgraff, Steinway Piano, Sheraton Hotels, WNBC and Fuji Videotape. [Resume and Portfolio available upon request.]

FREELANCE Cartoonist and Illustrator



©2003 Jane Hanstein Cunniffe

Back to the Beginning


Check out
Smiling Goat Books!

See a few portraits taken in Madison Square Park

Go Home

Tis for Taxi.
The Madison Square Park Alphabet Project
Contact: Jane Hanstein Cunniffe

212 685-5448