Signs of the Times are Literacy Lessons in Disguise

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Signs. From street signs to business signs to yard signs, they are everywhere. Why do signs matter? Because they communicate meaning from one person to another, over space and over time. That’s the foundational literacy lesson that signs offer to adults and kids alike.

It is important to help young children to understand the role that signs play in sharing ideas, needs or information to everyone who reads them.

Children should understand that written communications of all types, including signs, illustrate the power and importance of reading (independently gathering information) and of writing (independently sharing information). They should learn to embrace the idea that literacy is like a super power that allows people to travel across space today and even into the spaces of tomorrow. This super power is a critical, overarching one that actually is much more important than little things often considered as essential primary learning, like the traditional “Concepts of Print” shown here.

Sure, all children should understand each of these concepts, however, the essential underlying principles and power of literacy are so much deeper and extend beyond them.

Simple signs can have more complex meanings than their words. For example, this sign communicates that the young girl wants to read books and that she would love to spend some quality time with her loved ones. She’s asking to be seen and heard.

This sign, on the other hand, is a public statement about speaking out against injustice rather than being a silent bystander, and encouraging others to do the same.

The deeper message in each of these signs is so much more than the words and phrases in the messages themselves. Each one creates a mood and feeling, which all good writing and its reading do. That is the real power of literacy and the primary “concept” of print that all children must come to grasp to become fully literate. They won’t do that without our help.

Take the time to talk with kids, not just about what a book says, but what it means, both literally and personally.

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