Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Point it out!

Point it out!- As I mentioned in my introduction, I have a background in early (English) literacy development.  And like any parent, I've been watching my kids and looking for those tell-tale signs that they have reached an important milestone.  And, of course, I've been helping them along by providing them with lots of opportunities to practice each new literacy skill.  I've played the "Find M for McDonald's" game with them as we speed down the highway to grandma's house, I've taught them how to spell their names and have looked for places to point out those special letters in other places, I've shown my kindergartener how "little a" has two fonts, and I've given my kids plenty of practice sounding out words and spelling.

The Peace Pole
But then I realized something.  Never, outside of Chinese class, have I done these same things for Chinese.  And I could.  My kids have started learning the radicals, the building blocks, for Chinese characters in the past few months.  There are Chinese characters in our home, in the artwork on our walls.  We visit the Asian food markets where we are surrounded by Chinese characters.  We periodically eat at Chinese restaurants.  We walk the pedestrian mall where there are Chinese characters decorating the walkways.

So I've started pointing out places where I see Chinese characters: on the labels of food we buy at the store, T-shirts at the mall, on our artwork, in movies we watch (Kung Fu Panda!), on the menus at Chinese restaurants, on books we see at the bookstore, the Peace Pole outside the Iowa City Public Library, etc.  My children have taken more of an interest in Chinese.  They're noticing it.  Just as when I pointed out signs to my kids like "stop" and "McDonald's," now they are pointing out places they see Chinese.  And more importantly, they are asking about it.  And that's the first step to literacy.  Recognizing that these letters/characters have meaning and are important in navigating the world.  So take a look around your world and see where you can find Chinese.

If you are having difficulties finding places in your neighborhood where Chinese is apparent, below are a few ideas.
  • Check out your library.  You might be surprised by the number of books that are available for kids in Chinese (with ㄅㄆㄇㄈ or pinyin or only characters).  If the selection is slim, suggest to your librarian they invest in more books.
  • Go to a Chinese restaurant.  Most buffets will list the items in English and Chinese. 
  • Check out Panda Express (the water cups have the word 水 on them; very cool!)
  • Invest in a Chinese Magnet Poetry set.
  • Point out Chinese restaurant signs as you drive down the street.
  • Create a Chinese Calendar.  Hang it on your wall and talk about the familiar characters/radicals you see. 
  • Provide opportunities in your house to see and practice reading Chinese:  See Post It! Part 1 and Post It! Part 2.

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