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How labels can help your kids become readers

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by Sarah Mueller


No, not the kind of labels that say your kid is smart or has ADHD or is below average. I’m talking about actual little signs with the names of things that you post around the house.

If you go to a preschool classroom, you may see labels on the shelves and other areas – “Block Corner”, “Train”, “Dress-up”, etc. Perhaps there’s also a picture or stick figure drawing illustrating the label.



These labels do help to keep the space organized (aren’t preschool classrooms wonderfully organized?), but they also help to encourage beginning reading. Kids see the sign, they see what toys are there, and if they know a few letter sounds, they can associate the word with whatever is in that area.

If you’re encouraging a beginning reader in German, or in English, you can use labels around the house as part of your strategy to teach your kids.

What should I label?

You can label anything around the house – toy areas, dresser drawers, categories on the book shelf, the contents of kitchen cabinets. Of course if you’re encouraging bilingualism, you’ll write them in German. You probably don’t want to label the entire house for fear of driving your spouse crazy. Instead, keep it a bit lighter, perhaps putting up a few labels in the kitchen, playroom or your children’s rooms. You can do it very simply with some scratch paper and tape or you can get fancy and print up colorful labels on cardstock. Your kids may even want to help you make the labels, thereby offering more practice with reading and writing!

Why do labels help beginning readers?

1. Labels offer reading opportunities in bite-size chunks.

Reading one or two words is very non-threatening and not overwhelming. It’s approachable. A colorful label calls out to a child “Read me!” If you make the print large enough, it will be easier for young eyes to make out the letters.

2. With labels, kids are learning from context.

They’ll know if they got it right. It’s easy to tell what the word should say. A child can correct himself if he reads it incorrectly. Learning from context is so much more effective than someone else telling him he’s wrong – if he discovers an error himself, he’ll be likely to try and figure out where he went wrong and fix it. “Oh, that’s a B, not a D so this is the Doll Corner.”

3. Labels are low pressure.

A child doesn’