I Is For Eyes Ceem
My sister recently came for a visit with her two children. Her oldest is five and her youngest three years old. The three-year old is fascinated with three things right now: superheros, letters and numbers. After he dons his favourite superhero costume (this weekend Hulk was the stand by, complete with puffy muscles), he likes to get on the iPad and play letter/number games (seems like a natural superhero activity.) I got so much joy out of watching his excitement. He would jam his little Hulk finger onto the I and yell "I! I FOR EYES CEEEEEEEM!!!" That's three-year old speak for Ice Cream. He did this over and over again, laughing hysterically as only a three-year old could.
I was my family's chauffeur this weekend as well. Normally a pretty simple job. Complexity is added when you have a little Hulk in the back seat yelling out every number and letter he sees along the way. Trips through drive-throughs get very complicated when the clerk can't hear you over the "3!!!! THERE'S 3 THREE'S!!! NO WAIT THERE'S 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, GAZILLION THREES!"
Although the excitement of finding letters and numbers in the environment almost caused me to veer into oncoming traffic at times, it is a necessary and wonderful way to increase literacy in preschool children. At ABC Head Start we often refer to a book called ABC And Beyond: Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings by Elaine Weitzman and Janice Greenberg, to get tips on how to increase pre-literacy in our classrooms.
Chapter 6 in the book focuses on fostering the development of print knowledge. So what do children need to learn about print before school? Weitzman and Greenberg list the following things: that print is meaningful, books are used in specific ways, print is read in specific ways, and that print includes letters, spaces, words and punctuation marks. Just being exposed to the printed word is not enough for children to develop print knowledge. "If children are to learn that it's the print, not the illustrations, that tells the story or the letters of the alphabet have names, then adults must draw their attention to how print functions," Weiztman and Greenberg explain.
So while you are reading a book to your child point out the print while you are reading. Trace your finger along the print demonstrating the direction you read, and explain to them "Those are letters, letters make up words, and words tell us stories." Point out print in the environment, "Oh look I see a 'T' and Tyler starts with 'T'!" Point out letters and numbers on your clothing and on your children's clothing. Another wonderful and no-cost way to get your children excited about literacy and ready for a successful school experience!