While we go about our day, we often don’t realize how many words there are around us. We read words on road signs, on the sides of vehicles, at the grocery store and on floor decals. At home we read the buttons on appliances and the ingredients on food packaging. Everywhere we go, we see environmental print: the words that surround us each day.
Environmental print provides us with a wonderful opportunity to practice early literacy skills with the preschoolers in our lives. When we point out print as we read it aloud, we are reinforcing the idea that those little squiggles (words) carry meaning. This skill is called print awareness and is foundational to reading and writing. Before children learn to read, they must first understand that print has symbolic meaning—it stands for the words that we read aloud. Understanding this takes time and practice.
So give it a try! Next time that you go for a walk in your neighbourhood, see if you can spot any environmental print. Point it out to your little one as you go. If you find yourselves waiting in the car or looking for a new activity at home, play a game of “I Spy” with environmental print. Over time, your child will become aware of the print in their surroundings.