Young children begin to notice symbols and print in their environment before they know how to read words, or even how to name letters. They see words, logos, brand names, and street signs every day, and noticing these pieces of "environmental print" is one of the first steps in understanding reading and writing. By associating a meaning with a piece of environmental print, children begin to understand that certain symbols or letters stand for specific objects or places.
What environmental print (logos, brand names, street signs, billboards) does your child recognize, and how can you help him or her continue to develop awareness about what print means? As always, talking to your child as you move through your environment is a great way to help them start noticing literacy all around them. Ask questions about pictures, words, and signs that you see in your home and out in the world.
Some classroom ideas that families could also try at home include:
~Take a walk with a camera to snap pictures of print children see around the school, home, or outside. - You could use these pictures to create a book or a matching game, or just to facilitate more conversation.
~Show children pictures of environmental print, and ask them to sort them into those with letters and without, those with similar colors, logos for restaurants vs. other places, or see how your child chooses to group them.
~Give your child clean, empty food/beverage cartons, jugs, boxes, and bottles to include in their pretend play. Suggest ways to use these, such as setting up a grocery store or a pantry. Watch to see how your child incorporates these objects into their play.
Creatively using environmental print is a great way to get children interested in the print in their everyday lives. Once again, it is important for families to share background with teachers because it gives teachers a window into each child's home life so that they can create a connected literacy learning experience between home and school. So, tell your child's teacher what environmental print your child recognizes or loves, and ask how this might be incorporated into the classroom!