By Marilee Joy Mayfield
When adults think of print materials, we often think of books or magazines. But, there are lots of print materials around your home and in your everyday environments. By implementing some simple techniques, you can use these materials to guide your child on his or her path to literacy. There’s only one thing that you need—the desire to create a home where reading is a fun activity. Children learn by example, so if they see you soaking up written words like a sponge, they’ll be fascinated and want to do the same.
At the breakfast table, are you a cereal box reader? Your everyday cereal box has lots of printed words on it. Sometimes there are characters, activities, and stories on the box too. You can point to the letters and words on the cereal box as you talk to your child. You can match the written word “cereal” on your handwritten grocery list to the word on the box. When you take your child to the grocery store, you can say the names of the items you’re getting and point to the words on the packaging.
Leftover greeting cards are another fun item to use. They often have words printed in large sizes that are perfect for letter and word recognition. A powerful strategy is to place your finger under each word and move from left to right as you are reading it out loud. You don’t need to do this every time you are reading aloud, but, when you do, it will help your child begin to understand how letters make words and how words hold meaning.
Whenever you get a package delivered, it’s an opportunity for reading. Lots of boxes have printed lettering to indicate what’s inside. There might even be three layers of printing—words on the outside of the box, words on the inside packaging, and words on a direction sheet for how to assemble or use the product. For a very young child, you might say something like “See! This word tells me what’s inside. And these words tell me how to use it.” Then, you can read the words out loud as you point to them. Older children might recognize some of the words as you are reading word by word.
Printed calendars, recipe cards, and chore boards are all opportunities for reading too. In fact, the more you go on a “word hunt” around your house, the more you’ll find a treasure trove of printed words that you can use to read aloud and show your child. And, of course, if you don’t find the words you want to introduce to your child, you can always write them. Inexpensive index cards are great for writing letters and words. You can cut out animal pictures from magazines to make a simple matching game with a picture on one index card and the matching word on another.
As you read books and magazines in your home, your child will show an interest in these too. This is the time to start introducing your child to simple books with pictures, words, and beginning stories.
By Marilee Joy Mayfield
Marilee has 15 years experience in education writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Her works have been distributed through Barnes and Noble, Koorong, and Scholastic.