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Why Introduce Text Early to Children
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Preschool children benefit from learning that text, or symbols, represent meaning, share knowledge and express ideas
Reading: following along a line, top to bottom, left to right shows a child how reading works
Draw attention to the many examples of print in a child's environment to increase awareness of writing & symbols (signage, logos, T.V., advertising, maps, phones, etc
Approximately 50% of everything we read or write, includes some of the same 100 high frequency words. Knowing these words supports reading fluency and comprehension
Text is used in almost every aspect of our lives. And our children are exposed to various forms of writing or symbols from a very young age. For example: driving a car, creating recipes, buying groceries, even choosing which program on the T.V. requires using text.
It's likely if you have a preschool child they're already well aware of specific symbols. For example the gigantic 'M' for McDonalds or the STOP of a Stop sign.
One of the advantages of increasing a preschooler's awareness of literacy, (especially symbols and text in their environment,) is they start looking for examples of writing themselves, wanting to know more about how literacy works.
Most preschool children will be able to identify some common symbols or logos of specific programs they would like to watch on streaming services.
A child benefits from being aware of text prior to school.
By observing someone else read, they develop a basic understanding of literacy conventions: e.g. top to bottom, left to right, following a line, return sweep, full stops, front to back, etc.
Activities to Help Develop Emergent Reading & Writing Skills
Encouraging Pre-reading & Pre-writing awareness: It didn't matter how accurate they were. I identified any straight lines, or ovals that I could praise them for as being part of the fundamentals we use when writing words. After I identified all the circles and straight lines, or correctly shaped letters, their writing included more of them.
Then I showed my preschoolers how many circles, bumps and straight lines there are in their own name.
Because there was a purpose to writing and there was something in it for them, these preschool aged children were really motivated to write their own shopping lists.
2. Having preschoolers make a guess as to what they think a sign could say, or what a symbol could mean, is a great way of helping them to realize text contains meaning.
STOP signs are a great sign to begin with because they are bright and your car has to stop for them.
If you look at some of the packaging in your home you'll notice there's text on most of it. Cereal boxes, taco shells, canned foods, sauces, honey, peanut butter, Vegemite, toothpaste, shampoos, etc all have labels with writing on them.
1. I let my preschool children look at labels on some of our grocery items while I modeled compiling my shopping list. I showed them I wrote: from top of page to the bottom & from left to right
They were encouraged to write their own shopping lists, copying labels or examples they asked me to write for them. Then I let them buy the things that were on their list.
3. Let your preschool child expand their knowledge of STOP signs to view an example like that of the bike. What do they think that symbol could mean?
Or your children can locate symbols for amenities while shopping.
4. When you're driving the car ask preschoolers to focus on one specific type of signage per trip such as STOP signs, street signs, bus stops, speed signs, roadwork, etc. They can count how many they can find.
Alternatively if you're walking around a city, take photographs of how many different types of signs you can find on your journey.
If you download the photos from your walk you could use this to make a book of signs that your child can read.
It's amazing how much environmental text there is once you start looking.
There are symbols for petrol stations, toilets, cycle ways, ambulance, police and fire stations; boat ramps, bus stops, playground, caravan parks, parking areas, hospitals, churches, golf courses, shopping centres, hospitals, even horse riding facilities.
Let your child find what symbols they can. Some of the preschoolers I've taught have made up their own symbols and devised their own maps.
7. If you're walking around a city look for taxis, buses, trucks, delivery vans or other sorts of vehicles and discuss signage.
Look for other examples of advertising signage.
Advertising is great to illustrate the use of text because it uses short messages and bold lettering
to attract an audience.
You might begin to look at the beginning letters of particular words and highlight them. 'S' is great for a beginning letter because it looks like a snake. 'M' is also good because it is very different to 'S' and it is the beginning of the word Mum.
You'll be surprised how emergent preschoolers can identify many letters in isolation if you play letter bingo with them.
5. Using a GPS or satellite navigation system allows your child to see a representation of exactly where they are as they travel around their neighbourhood.
And it not only uses symbols, but words as well.
This can be a great way of highlighting symbols to represent specific buildings such as churches, entertainment facilities, toilets, etc.
And many symbols are reinforced with words as well.
6. Maps are fantastic for preschool children to locate and identify symbols. There's usually a key on the bottom left hand corner illustrating the symbols they're looking for.
And sometimes advertising reinforces the words with images so a preschool child can guess what the words might say.
8. Stations are great places for the display of text.
Signage depicting rules are usually displayed inside trains and there are usually visual symbols to reinforce the message.
There's usually a multitude of text either on platforms or surrounding walkways. For example: Exit signs, stairs, lifts, toilets, station names, timetables, etc. And many stations also contain lots of advertising as well. Preschoolers can guess what they think signage might mean.
9. Preschool children can use phones, tablets and computers for short periods of time.
I recall my youngest son trawling through a complex computer program called Dangerous Creatures at the age of three. Not only did he seek out the games but he loved learning the new information it offered and would frequently share it with us.
It's important to note that while I believe technology is a great tool to use with children, it's not however ideally used for periods of time in excess of twenty minutes or so at a time.
I recall reading research that indicated higher levels of aggression in children exposed to screen times of twenty minutes or more in one go. If your child wants a screen available in their own room for them to self-manage, their adhering to a twenty minute limit is unlikely.
Children need to interact with the real world to develop all of the skills necessary for them to live full and meaningful lives and ideally be involved in some structured activities where they interact socially with others.
With the range of electronic devices available, children can be electronically sedated for a great deal of time and from my experience children who, for example, spend a lot of time playing video games, appear more fidgety and have greater difficulty concentrating, without high levels of stimulation.
RESEARCH: Recent research below reinforces what I've observed over years:
Go to links below to learn more about introducing text:
Did you know for example that around 50% of every piece of writing uses some of the same 100 words.
(Some of these high frequency words are marked here in bold to illustrate what I am talking about. They are what we call high frequency words.)
I've devised some fun reading games so you can find out and practise 100 high frequency words with your child. There are also some Assessment sheets you can take a screen shot of and print off.
And they're all free. Look at the end of this article for links.
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