Words Are Everywhere! 4 Reasons the Best Classrooms for Kids are “Print-Rich”
By Cheryl Flanders
Maybe you’ve walked into your child’s classroom and noticed that a lot of items—the sinks, the book shelf, the tub full of musical instruments—are labeled, with pictures and words. For adults, this may look a little, well, strange. After all, you can see with your own eyes where the blocks are, and you know a clock when you see one. So what’s with the labeling? Is there a reason that two-year-olds (who most certainly cannot yet read) need a sign that says “blocks” to be attached to a bin of blocks?
There is in fact a very good reason: Research shows that a print-rich classroom not only supports development of literacy skills, it also inspires a lifelong love of reading (even if kids aren’t reading yet). Here’s how labeling works to support reading in children’s still-developing brains:
At first, your child will learn to “read” the pictures and suss out what they mean (“This bin has a picture of a truck on it, so the toy trucks must go here.”) Gradually she’ll understand there’s a connection between the pictures and the written words. The next step? She’ll become aware that those letters under the picture represent both the object and the sounds we use to name the object—and so begins her journey down the road to literacy.
Here’s what you might see labeled in your child’s classroom:
1. Learning Areas. Most early childhood classrooms have spaces designated for certain activities and so there are usually labels at each one to help kids know where to go. You may see signs or picture labels on the blocks corner, the creative arts or dramatic play center, the science area, the library, or the math and manipulatives center. Checking out the signs also helps adults assess what an early learning center teaches and what it values educationally.
2. Classroom Objects. Everyday items—like doors, windows, clocks, or sinks—may all have neatly printed labels next to them, in English as well as another language spoken by a child in the class.