Kids are hungry for words and ideas that interest them. So what better place to find interesting words than on food labels such as cereal boxes, candy wrappers and even food advertisements from the newspaper?
Feeding your preschooler a steady diet of interesting words from labels has two important results. First, as children connect new words with old words, their vocabulary grows. A bigger vocabulary will help them understand what they read (reading comprehension). And second, words taken from inside the kitchen cabinet are familiar to children and are often more easily analyzed (decoded) and recognized when they show up in another place.
Here’s how you can make a book of labels to build early literacy and skills:
- Collect discarded household food or other well-preserved labels from your home that has some relevance for your child like a cereal box, candy wrapper, movie stub, or newspaper advertisement.
- In a notebook, scrap book, or a book you make yourself, help your child paste the label on the left side leaving enough white space around the label for your child to write
- Say to your child, “Now I’d like you to write about what you see.” Your child will likely render a combination of drawings and invented letters and words—that’s ok.
- Next say to your child, “Now I will write exactly what you tell me you wrote. Be sure to watch me write your words on paper.” As your child speaks, slowly transcribe his or her words exactly, being careful to print neatly. Remind your child to watch you write to help them make the connection between what they say (oral language) and what you print (written language).
- Build the book by encouraging your child to be on the lookout for favorite labels. Watch how your child’s oral and written language begins to expand!
Jean Ciborowski Fahey, PhD is a 2014 Mass Literacy Champion. She is the author of Make Time for Reading: A Story Guide for Parents of Babies and Young Children. Learn more about Jean here.