Signs Mean More Than They Say

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Our 2 year old, in his car seat, couldn’t see over the edge of the car door. However, he could see elevated billboards and signs out his car window. When we would pass a GULF gas station he would invariably see the orange sign above the street and holler, “BALL!”

Signs are everywhere and provide constant, rich material for communicating messages. They also can serve as an aid in teaching children not merely HOW to read written language, but WHY learning to read is so very important. Using signs found around a community, adults can guide children to understand and use combinations of images and words, first to grasp their meanings, and then to say things to others.

Children quickly determine that using words help them get their needs met. They also may add pointing fingers, facial expressions and other gestures to get their desired response. These interactions help children to refine their messages and appreciate how mastering all communication tools is to their benefit. Over time, children quickly begin working on improving full multimedia communications.

This is the WHY that will pull them into joyfully working hard to learn to read, write, draw and use movement to share their feelings, thoughts and needs. Now, teaching anybody to do something that complex can be difficult, but if a child wants to learn to read–envisioning the power that comes with reading independently–the task will be immensely less challenging for them and more fun for their parents and teachers.

Simply learning letter sounds and individual words offers an easy-to-measure focus of instruction, but the result is not actually reading. It is merely “saying” words. The major goal of literacy is for kids to make personal sense of infinite combinations of letters, visuals and symbols to advance understanding of and connection with others. Even when children are just realizing that letters are special little squiggles on a page, they will need to anchor their conviction to learn more deeply by understanding the VALUE of these literacies.

So, what to do? As those signs go by, read them AND explain what they mean to you.

  • Emergency Room! When people are badly hurt or very sick that’s where they should go!”
  • “Look at that lower price! They want us to buy those clothes.”
  • “That lady wants to be our governor! She has some good ideas.”
  • “Ooo! Gas is cheap today. We should fill up.”
  • “School crossing! Slow down! We want to be extra careful here.”
  • “SOLD! Aw, the Yıldırım’s sold their house. Sadly, they’ll be moving soon.”
  • “Our library’s over there! We can borrow some fun books to read this weekend.”

Every sign is shorthand for messaging far beyond the simple words. Use every opportunity to aid kids in understanding print’s most important meanings and how to fully understand and share them.

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2 Responses to “Signs Mean More Than They Say”

  1. Betty zelasko December 7, 2020 at 2:54 am #

    Mark I enjoyed your piece above very much .I also work in the trenches of educating children to read and write .We all know how vital it is to their success .The added element is FUN!

    • Mark Condon January 26, 2021 at 7:59 am #

      Keeping it fun is critical, Betty…especially in these very challenging days of remote teaching/learning.