Practical Literacy: using Signs and Labels to help your child read

stop signReading is the most fundamental of all school skills , and the first thing children begin to learn in school.  An easy way to supplement your child’s first attempts at sight reading words is to point out road signs, store signs,and labels

Pay attention to signs with commands “Stop,” “One Way,” or “Do Not Enter,” “Yield”.   Watch out for signs that say “Hill”, or “Slow” or “Curve”. There’s tons of opportunity to point out “Road work ahead” over and over and over 🙂 One of the children in my class learned how to write “Thank You” thanks to road construction projects.  You can make a game out of reading the signs, asking questions like, “What should I do now?” or “Can I go this way?”  The follow-up questions are important, since it provides practice reading, and comprehending.  Street name signs can help when you are teaching your child your address. If your child is older, you can take this one step further by asking things like, “I’m looking for Sycamore Avenue.  Can you tell me when I’ve come to it?”  Then the child will have to read all the street signs and mentally match the words with the name.

This technique doesn’t have to stay inside the car.  You can take your child for a walk around a shopping center and ask him or her to read the names of the stores.  Again, you can make this a game by asking follow-up questions.  For example, if you see a place called “Park Avenue Florist,” ask “What do they sell here?”  Even when you’re inside a store, you can still continue the reading exercises.  You can treat this outing almost like a scavenger hunt, saying things like “I need to buy something for an office,” then pointing to the aisle markers hanging from the ceiling and saying, “Which aisle has things for an office?” It takes time, but you can use labels off cans and food packages to teach reading in the grocery store. Now days it’s so simple to take a photo of what you are planning to buy. Then show your child the photo and ask her to find the item.

There’s never been a better teacher than you combined with hands on experience, so it may be time to consider your entire neighborhood a rich teaching tool.


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