When we think about teaching our preschoolers to read, we think about showing them the words in a book, sounding out each letter and stringing sentences together. But what about reading environmental print, the words that surround us each and every day? Environmental print appears on building signs, restaurant menus and even on television. Preschoolers who are learning to read should be exposed to all types of words, allowing them to bridge the gap between the words in books and the words all around them.
Parents can help to build the connection between the two by using environmental print to their advantage. Talking to your children about letters, words and different print styles teaches them to recognize each letter, no matter how it is written. Here are some fun ways to engage your preschooler in reading and recognizing different letters:
- During a long car ride, ask your children to find different letters in their surroundings. Find an “A” on a license plate, a “B” on a building sign, or a “C” on a street sign. This will teach your children to look for letters in all kinds of writing styles.
- Cut out the letters in a magazine and use them to put different words and sentences together. Sit down with your children and teach them to read using the mismatched letters. Your children will learn to read big letters, small letters, and everything in between.
- When eating breakfast in the morning, ask your preschoolers to find the first letters of their names on the cereal box, oatmeal packet or milk jug. See if your children can spell their entire names with the letters on different breakfast packages.
- Pick one type of sign to focus on during a car ride, such as a stop sign, and have your children count how many times they see one throughout the drive. Have your preschoolers sound out the sign and read it each time you pass one, noticing that each one displays the same words.
- Find or take photos of different street signs, building signs and the like, and make them into a small book for your children to practice reading Organize the photos into words that start with the same letter, words that sound alike, or words that have the same meaning.
- Print out each letter in different font styles, and discuss each one with your children. Talk about how a “C” can make both the “S” and “K” sounds, and how some letters can be silent in certain words.
Teaching your children to read is an important part of their education. Spending the time to teach them about capital and lowercase letters, words that sounds the same, and different words that have the same definition will give them a head start on learning to read in preschool.