Our environment is rich in print. From their earliest days observing the environment, children are surrounded by print that may include words, symbols and images, each portraying meaning in different ways. We see:
- names of stores
- signs directing pedestrians and vehicles
- instructions for entering and leaving buildings
- labels on items
- prices on goods
- banners advertising local events
- information about landmarks and points of interest
and so the list goes on.
Reading and understanding the plethora of signs is important to independent living and successful negotiation of our print-rich and print-dependent world. Although we often take our ability to do so for granted, one only has to visit a foreign place to realise how much we rely on print to navigate our way.
Helping children to read and understand signs is important, requires no planning and can occur effortlessly whenever parents are out and about with their children. All that is required of the parents is to point them out and explain their meaning.
Very young children can learn to recognise the entry and exit and signs on doors, particularly if colour is used as a clue, and the signs on restroom doors.
Stop signs are easily recognisable as are other road signs such as those indicating speed humps, pedestrian and animal crossings, speed limits and left and right turns. Children quickly come to understand what is happening when the traffic lights change colour, but their learning is always enhanced by parental explanations. On journeys when children might become restless, it can be fun to keep their minds occupied by spotting particular signs.
It doesn’t take children long to recognise the logo of their favourite fast food or ice cream store. Names of other stores frequented by the family can also be pointed out for them to learn to recognise. It can also be useful to explain to children how items are being selected, how you know what the items are and where you locate the price. They can be shown how to use symbols and colours on packaging to identify items they like and may come to recognise (if not read) the names of some of their favourite products.
A fun activity for the first days of school is to provide children with an assortment of environmental print to identify. Often children begin school hoping to learn to read on the first day, little realising how much they can already ‘read’. Reading environmental print boosts their self-esteem and self-confidence by showing what they can do and makes a connection between school and what is familiar to them.
I used to like making an ‘I can read’ book on the first day with my children. I would supply children with a collection of advertisements cut from magazines and product labels that I thought children would readily recognise. I would also print signs, symbols and company logos from the computer.
I would provide children with six to ten pages, each labelled with the words ‘I can read’. Children would then select items they could ‘read’ (recognise) from the collection and paste each onto a page. When they were done, children would proudly read their books to their friends and to me, and take them home to read to their families.
I am thinking about signs in the environment as this week Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.
I could have written a flash about children reading signs in the environment, as I’ve described. Or, still in keeping with my educational theme, I could have written about the signs that teachers look for everyday showing that progress has been made or that misconceptions and misunderstanding exist.
However, the environment worldwide is shouting to us loud and clear, with signs that can no longer be denied, that our climate is changing.
Since the beginning of this year, Australia has suffered unprecedented and catastrophic weather events. Across the country, the land has been ravaged by heatwaves that have seen record maximums in temperatures and bushfires have raged across large tracts of land. While much of the country is suffering from prolonged drought, other areas have been devastated by extraordinary rainfalls and flooding. In fact, some of the farming community, who had been crippled by drought, rejoiced when the rains began, only to lament when the rains didn’t end and the rain and floods caused massive stock losses.
It is of these farmers that I have chosen to write. Some of my family live and raise stock, some sheep and some cattle, in the devastated areas and have suffered enormous losses. The heartbreak is unimaginable. If you would like to help the farmers, you can find out how to do so in this article.
You can read more about the plight of the farmers in these articles:
I hope my flash goes a little way to recognising the plight of our stoic farmers.
Every day, the farmers scanned the skies for a sign, any sign, that a reprieve from the relentless drought was on its way. The dusty red soil yielded not a single blade of feed for the suffering stock. Bales of hay, donated by city folk, helped but soon it too would be gone. When the rains finally came, the farmers rejoiced. For four days it rained; beautiful, drenching, life-giving rains, soaked up by the thirsty soil. But it wouldn’t stop. It transformed their world into an enormous, red, muddy sea. Hopes drowned alongside precious stock leaving heartbreak and devastation.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.