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Environmental Print...A Road to Reading for Preschoolers

From the time that we awake in the morning, we are exposed to environmental print. It is on our cereal boxes and milk cartons. When we open the cupboard it is the label on all our cans and packages. This natural display of words is great way to teach print awareness to our preschoolers. Focusing can begin on the letters most important to your child...the letters in his own name. Example: "Look Kevin, I see your special K on our cereal box. Special K has the first letter of your name.

Canned fruits and vegetables are also great as the pictures with the words reinforce learning.

Make a collage of your child's favorite foods, using labels from the food packages to glue on poster board, ie: macaroni and cheese, corn chocolate milk, whatever favorite foods he has. Using words that are important to your child will help him remember them more quickly and develop an awareness of words in print. If these labels are reviewed occasionally, your child will soon know the name and you can reinforce this by saying, "Wow, look, you are reading!" Is your child really reading? No, he has memorized words, but in doing so, is being to make reading connection.

Refrigerators with magnet letters are another great avenue for introducing print to your preschoolers. Again begin with letters important to him... the letters in his name. Add other important words, mom, dad, love, a pet's name. Say the name of the letter as you spell out the words. Leave the words up to be reviewed. Soon, your preschooler will be able to "read" these special words as well. This may also help to keep your little one busy while you prepare dinner.

When driving around town, point out words in the environment. "Look Mike, there's McDonald's. It begins with you special letter M". Soon they will be pointing these words out to you, and wanting to stop. Again, reinforce the idea that they are "reading".

Once our world gets back to normal, a trip to the grocery store will be another great way to incorporate print in the environment. Talk about the items you are buying, look for signs that describe the foods, pictures and words on the packages. Let your child cross out the items on your grocery list as you find them. It may take a little longer to get through the store, but it's a wonderful, enriching way to introduce your preschoolers to print, and the understanding of print to the understanding of words in reading.

Lorraine Bukilica, MA CCC-SLP

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