Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recycled Reading and Writing

Are you jaundiced by junk mail, fed up with flyers, cranky about all the catalogues that litter your house?

When you share printed material with the kids in your life, and they see you showing an interest in it, they learn to do so too. My delightful young friend in the picture is lucky enough to have a grandfather who has talked to him about the newspaper, discussed pictures, and pointed out anything of interest in whatever he read. At two and a half, D. now "reads" the newspaper to his toys, and shares matters of interest with his family. Here he is reading the local Target catalogue and discussing what he sees.

One of the nice things about flyers is that they're headed for the recycle bin anyway. So it doesn't matter if they get dog-eared, or even destroyed. Toddlers will enjoy "reading" them. They can be used for cutting practice - kids might like to cut out their special favourites and paste them into a wish list. This is a great activity to do around present-giving times. You can label the pictures with your child's help, reinforcing the link between writing and reading.

If you have two identical catalogues, cut out illustrations make a great basis for matching games like concentration or snap. You can sort them into all sorts of categories: toys with wheels, animals, red things, toys mummy will never be able to afford ... Or use them to tell a story. If your child has a favourite jingle or rhyme, catalogue pictures might spark a new version:

"There was a boy,
Who had a toy,
And Johnny was his name-o!"

Fortunately, literary merit is not a goal, so much as having fun with words and pictures.

Some parents worry that kids who are allowed to scribble on flyers, or cut them up, will transfer that activity to Dad's second editions. It's important to make sure your child understands the difference between junk mail and library books, for sure. I believe kids learn that through modelling (watching adults treat books with respect, yet throw catalogues in the bin) and explicit teaching (we hold a book this way, turn the pages like this, be gentle).

As a teacher, I loved to get hold of toy and book catalogues for my students. They were intrinsically motivating! We would talk about them, share them with each other, use them as the basis for writing activities, and dream about their contents. Sometimes kids designed their own flyers, creating new descriptions for their products and trying to entice customers to buy.

Using flyers, newspapers and old magazines with kids is not only great for the environment, it's easy on the hip pocket. Best of all, it's yet another way to make reading and writing with kids a whole heap of recycled fun!


  1. A great idea.

    We get so much junk mail. I often let the kids open it and it forms parts of their make believe games.

    I'm liking your makeover by the way!

    Recent blog post: I've had a makeover ...

  2. Terry Doherty07 April, 2009

    "Sometimes kids designed their own flyers, creating new descriptions for their products and trying to entice customers to buy." Oh, what a sneaky teacher you are trying to get them writing - and making them savvy consumers!

    Recent blog post: Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup - 6 April

  3. The Book Chook has a penchant for getting the most from something Laura, as you know. Junk mail is no exception.

    PS Your makeover was great, too.

    Recent blog post: Recycled Reading and Writing

  4. Sneaky? Moi???

  5. More great suggestions! If your child looks at a newspaper or magazine while you do so on your own, you're showing him or her that you value reading. It's such an important step toward raising a reader.

    Recent blog post: No Place Like Home

  6. I guess it's the beginning of independent reading, Dawn. I never realised I was actually doing my son a favour when I buried my head in a book!

    Recent blog post: Rhyme Helps Reading


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