I came across the term ‘environmental print’ only a few weeks ago. Just like most parents out there, I could tell you how my daughter uses her vision. But when it comes to Eva sifting through junk mail and pointing out the ‘Woolworth’s’ catalogue because of its colours and logo, I can’t tell you what that is called, It was only when I was commenting on a Facebook post on a parent asking how to get their child engaged more in print, that a lovely teacher from the US discussed environmental print. In a nutshell, it’s the written language that is all around us. Think McDonalds. Before kids could read, they developed an understanding of the big M: It provides food, a play area, and fun times. The big M therefore has meaning to kids and they build that association with it. It is then a great opportunity to talk about its salient features; colours; big yellow arches which make the letter M, etc. It never occurred to me until we were at our local Coles that she called out “Oh so all that white writing with the red is the Coles logo?” “YES IT IS YOU AMAZING CHILD” I screamed in excitement!!
Following that great insight from the lovely teacher that was forthcoming with all sorts of information, I brought it up with Eva’s school teacher. She thought it would be a good idea to develop a scrap book of all environmental print that we come across. I thought it was a great idea (and a pretty good one coming from a teacher who has not taught a CVI child before!), so I have started putting together a book of environmental print with regards to her snacks, places we go to, etc. I cut out the logo of the brand and stick it into a scrap book. I then wrote the word underneath using the bubble word method that is commonly used. We will explore the colours, zoom in with her ipad on the images and words so its not cluttered, and then explore the bubble word. I am wondering if I should add in the Braille word too but unsure if this will take away the visual curiosity. Thoughts are appreciated on this!
One big question I did have when learning about environmental print is: Does your child need to have some basic understanding of print and letters? The answer is no. As I mentioned above, when you are creating meaning/a story to the selected print, they are still retaining it. My daughter can see letters on an ipad easy, but translating that to print is challenging, but when she sees the ‘Woolworths’ logo above, she puts together the green with the white print and the lighter green image and knows its ‘Woolworths’.
You can use environmental print in all aspects of your childs environment; road signs are another great and very important way for them to understand what the red stop sign means, whether it has the words ‘stop’ or not, they know what the shape and colour of this sign means. A big thing about getting into environmental print, is to intentionally use it in everyday scenarios, this way, they learn to look for it (like a game!) and voila, you are giving a visual lesson right there in the middle of your grocery shop!
For more information on environmental print, take a look at this fantastic article by Paths to Literacy and also hit up Pinterest for some great activities and ideas. I have started slow with my scrap book idea but I know that my daughter loves matching games, so will be printing out a heap of logos and creating a game she can play with her brother.