It's amazing how much confidence children can gain in their reading ability through "reading" signs...and gaining confidence in being able to read is a huge part of the battle. One way you can help your children/students to read is by making your own book of signs/logos. Take pictures of all the familiar signs you see around town...the stop sign, the one-way sign, the sign for the street you live on, etc. Also, collect logos from bags of stores you frequent such as McDonalds or your local grocery store, or cut words out of your cereal boxes. Or just get online and find pictures of signs and logos your child will recognize quickly (it's much more fun to go on a sign hunt though!)
Paste all of your pictures in a notebook (or better yet creatively design a book with contstruction paper, sparkles, the works) and write the word for each sign in big letters. Now you are ready to "read" with your child. At first, they may just recognize the shape or colors of the signs/logos, but they can read this book to you! Little by little you can start covering up the signs and just have them read the words. It's a lot of fun and teaches them about the signs and stores in their neighborhood, all while developing reading skills and confidence.
The Potato Pals series of readers we use with our 4-6 year-old students makes great use of this principle...every sentence has a "memoricon" associated with it so that kids can quickly "read" books on their own, even before they are recognizing the words. From there, it doesn't take much to have them focus on the words and we find many of our students telling us to cover the pictures because they want to read without hints.
Signs are powerful helpers in what can be a VERY intimidating activity (reading) for young kids. Next time you walk outside, notice the signs around you and think of ways you can use them to help teach your children/students. Be aware that reading is more than simply sounding out words, but involves using a number of clues to help understand meaning, and that the reading of signs should be praised and recognized as an important first step.
Here's a great Electric Company song/video that helps kids to read using signs. Enjoy!
Update: Unfortunately the video I linked to was removed...so here's another Electric Company clip using signage...not as good as the last one but still fun use of signs.One last thing...promise. Watching this video I see the old Walk/Don't Walk signs and it makes me wonder...were those really so difficult to understand? Did we really need to switch to the symbols? Just wondering...seems like giving up. Admittedly, I was young, but I don't recall ever seeing someone have trouble at the crosswalk reading the signs! Bring 'em back!