This post is by Catherine Oehlman of Squigglemum.
Text isn’t limited to books. Environmental print is everywhere. It’s probably in every room in your home, it’s all over the place at the shops, it’s on street signs and billboards and buildings and more. If you want to give your kids a head start in reading there is so much you can do using words in the world around them.
Have you had that experience where you are going down the supermarket aisle and your toddler points to a product and reads the title, even though you know they can’t read yet? It stops many a parent in their tracks as they struggle to get their head around it! My daughter did it the other day and even surprised me. We were in the cereal aisle, and Daddy’s favourite was all sold out. Oh what to do? We stood looking at the boxes for a while before Little Miss 3 piped up and said, “How about that Macadamia and Honey one Mum?” Once I picked my jaw up off the floor I asked her how she knew it said Macadamia and Honey. It’s not a cereal we’ve ever bought before and I haven’t seen an ad for it on TV during kid-watching-hours. She just shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. There’s macadamias on the picture here and I can see m-m-m, and there’s a honey twirler over there so it must be.” As a teacher and a mother I couldn’t ask for more than that.
There’s a whole lot of detective work involved in learning to read. It’s all about making connections, and putting together the pieces of a puzzle.
Letters + sounds + pictures + context = meaning
My daughter can’t sing the alphabet yet, but she knows some personally significant letters like m-for-Mummy, d-for-Daddy, all the letters of her own name and a few others. So in the case of the cereal box she used a letter and sound she knew (M) + the pictures on the box and her own prior knowledge (we have a macadamia tree in the backyard) + her understanding of where we were and what type of product we were looking at = Macadamia and Honey Cereal. In an early, simple form… that’s reading.
There are lots of ways you can encourage your child to start making these connections, WITHOUT flashcards!
- Help your child to get to know the letters in their name, especially the initial letter.
- Make sure they know the sound their letter makes.
- Put their name on their bedroom door.
- Look for their special letter when you’re at the shops together.
- Give them their own grocery list with a couple of easy, familiar items drawn and labelled (MILK is a good one to start with).
- Cut out letters from catalogues and magazines.
- Point out letters and signs when you’re driving, and read them aloud.
- Have fun with words together!
In addition to daily reading aloud together, exploring environmental print is a great way to help your kids become great little readers. You don’t have to do any heavy teaching. Simply look for opportunities to help your child make connections with the words in their world. They’ll be surprising you before you know it.
Thank you to the wonderful Catherine Oehlman, aka SquiggleMum for this guest post. Cath is a mother, teacher, writer, picture book lover and award winning blogger. You can find her squiggling about literacy and other topics close to her heart in many online and print publications.