Symbols are everywhere, and they are often accompanied by text. Go for a short walk to the corner and you are bound to see road signs, bins with recycle logos, business advertising and more. As adults, we are so accustomed to seeing this type of print around us that we barely give it a second thought. It is referred to as “environmental print” and is often the first print your children are exposed to. It is the perfect pre-reading tool as the context provides a clue as to its meaning. Think about well-known logos that your children recognize long before they can read, like McDonald’s golden arches!
Recognition of environmental print is one of the first stages of literacy development and should be encouraged. You can do this by pointing out the symbols and text whenever you see them, and talking about the colours, shapes, letters, and numbers used.
Being able to “read” environmental print is very exciting for children, and this is no small thing. It helps to prepare them for future learning and the reading that is required for the school years by building both confidence and a positive association with reading.
Here are a few ideas to support your children’s efforts:
- Go on a treasure hunt in the house. Write words (for example, “soup”) on pieces of paper or cue cards, and check them off or stash them away in a special box as you find them
- Make a homemade puzzle out of a cereal box
- Cut out the front of a cereal box
- Draw some wavy lines
- Cut out the pieces
- Store in a Ziploc bag
- Make a grocery list with flyer pictures and have your children help you shop
- Try “Scavenger Bingo”
- Draw or print out a table with nine squares
- Draw, print out, or find pictures of environmental print such as a stop sign, speed limit sign, or recycle bin
- Cut out the pictures and keep them in a Ziploc bag or small box
- Go for a walk and look for the items in the pictures (take a roll of tape or a glue stick)
- As you find them, tape or glue the picture to a spot on the “Bingo card”
- Cut out package labels to create a collage. Use items such as soup labels, cereal boxes, newspapers, greeting cards, or any other packaging on hand
- Talk about the safety symbols found on household items
- Make a placemat with your children using a piece of paper. Add stickers, drawings, or cut-outs of environmental print, and seal with packing tape or self-adhesive paper
Supporting your children’s efforts to read and recognize environmental print is one simple way to develop pre-reading skills. Have fun and help your children on the road to literacy!