The environment and daily routines in your home can be one of the best teaching tools to help children develop pre-reading skills and overall literacy. A print-rich environment helps foster skills needed for reading. By surrounding your children with print in your home and talking to them about what it means, they will learn more every day.
They will begin to discover cues and understand that the words they see in print and the words they speak and hear are related. They will begin to learn that print can carry a meaning, and that there are many different ways to communicate.
A print-rich environment also ignites an interest in writing. Kids want to model what they see around them and communicate in written form. If they also see you modeling reading and writing during your daily activities, they will want to try to communicate this way too!
Ordinary household routines and activities can be used as learning experiences for kids. Below are some simple and fun ways to make your home a print-rich environment, and incorporate print into daily routines:
- Post signs and label items in your home, such as “Kelly’s room” on your daughter’s door, or “coats” by the hooks by the back door. Draw your child’s attention to these signs as you read them.
- Make labels together. For example, when you pack away the winter clothes, have your child put labels on each container (e.g. hats, mitts, sweaters, pants). If your child is young, you can write the word for them and they can try to write it underneath.
- Write a grocery list together. Have your child help you decide what you need, and then write the words down. Look at the list together in the grocery store and have your child help you cross off items as you shop.
- Surround your child with lots of books-storybooks, non-fiction books about things like dinosaurs and insects, as well as poetry and nursery rhymes, newspapers and magazines. Create a “reading corner” in their bedroom or in the family room.
- Point out print to your child during daily activities. For example, when you are cooking, direct your child’s attention to the recipe and read it aloud as you follow each step. You child will begin to learn that print carries meaning. You can also point out print when you are out of the home. For example, point to the stop sign and tell your child that every time you see those words on that sign you need to stop. Have them help you watch for stop signs.
- Make growth charts together. Measure your child’s height and have him help you record the numbers. Talk about how the numbers are getting bigger as they are getting taller. You can display this chart in their bedroom where they can see it.
- You can turn a walk into a learning activity by playing games such as pointing out all of the “S” words that you see on signs or store names, etc. You can also use a sand box for letter recognition. Writing out letters in the sand and erasing it is a great game that kids will enjoy and it’s easy to do.
When kids are in an environment that has labels, signs and charts, they will be exposed to letters, words and numbers early and make connections between the letters and the functions they serve, thus developing their pre-literacy skills. Try these suggestions in your home, and have fun!
Written by Emily Begley, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada