While parents read books, tell stories and relate life experiences in narrative forms right from birth, they also begin to draw attention to print and the functions of literacy using many varied sources of written language in the child's world. In this post, I thought I'd mention just a few such non-book sources of early literacy learning and how we draw children's attention to it. This is another area where we can help boys to get a start in literacy using everyday experiences.
Environmental print - children (especially boys) love to explore space. We can use time spent outside for reading purposes as well as fun and exercise. Give a boy an oval and he'll run around every square inch of it, climb every object and crawl under and over every fence. Wherever children are exploring it is easy to draw attention to print and symbolic representations on signs, food wrappers, digital displays, clothing and so on. Point to words, trace the letters, explain what the sign means etc.
Use writing - another valuable way into reading is via writing. Encourage boys to write in varied forms (letters, numbers, their name, words etc). You might get them to dictate labels for a drawing, a caption for something they've made, a letter or email to one of their grandparents or a friend, label their toys, or shelves in their wardrobe, the words on a birthday card and so on. My grandson Jacob (aged 6) is an avid reader; the example opposite shows his drawing of some things he saw on holidays and his labelling of them. From a very young age his parents draw attention to print in his world and encouraged him to write.
Television - from about 2 years on most children will enjoy watching television. As parents you will no doubt moderate the amount of TV viewing (see one of my previous posts on this here), but most children will watch some television. For the young reluctant book reader, television can be a good springboard to various forms of reading. Programs that require children to do more than just watch are best. Programs like 'Playschool' in Australia encourage children to listen, watch, sing, dance, move, repeat actions, read simple words etc. Once again, as part of the child's viewing, interact with them directing attention to words, talking about symbols etc. Don't turn this into a lesson; instead use it as an accompaniment to the viewing.
Computers - digital representation of language and numbers (e.g. automatic teller machines, digital displays on appliances, computer games, electronic signs) are now one of the most prevalent sources of print in most children's worlds. Children will very quickly notice the words and numbers that light up before them, that move, change colour and are often associated with sound and images. As children observe parents using computers, watch you punching in passwords at the supermarket, observe the dashboard display on the car etc, it is natural and easy to draw their attention to the symbols and talk about what they are for.
I could go into other non-book forms of literacy but I think the point is simple. Look for print in your children's world and draw their attention to it. Take the time to:
- Point to the letters and numbers
- Offer simple explanations of what they are (e.g. these are numbers, this is a word, Mummy has to press these buttons to phone Daddy, that's how I this is your lunch box, it says Sally etc)
- Encourage children to point to words and letters
- Show them how words and numbers related to concrete objects (e.g. that says STOP)
- Look for natural ways to draw attention to print, teach them letter names
Here are some previous posts that are related to the topic of this post.
'Ten Ways to Encourage Preschool Writers' (here)
'Guiding Children's Learning' (here)
'Teaching and Learning Moments in Everyday Life' (here)
'The Language Experience Approach' (here)