Author: Tana Hoban

3-Year-Olds ConceptNonfiction

Children often learn to recognize common environmental signs long before they learn to read. The author of I Read Signs uses bright color photographs of familiar signs. You can use this book to introduce your child to concepts of print such as:

  • When letters are put together they make words.
  • Words give us information.
  • We read from left to right.
  • We use both words and pictures to get useful information.

Before, During and After Reading

Letter Knowledge and Print Awareness

Introduce the book, I Read Signs. Read the title. Introduce the author and illustrator and review what they do. Flip through some of the pages of the book and explain that the pictures in this book are real pictures, called photographs.

Discuss how the sign on the cover conveys meaning by its color, its picture and the letters. You might say:

I can see lots of important information when I look at this sign. What can you tell me about this sign?

What color is it? Yes, it is orange. Orange signs mean ‘Be careful’.

I see a picture of a boy. What do you see the boy doing?

There are also words on the sign that give us information. The words say PLAYGROUND. What do you think this sign is telling us? This sign means that there is a playground nearby and that the drivers should be careful.

Oral Language

Explain how this book will show lots of signs. Discuss how the words on the signs convey meaning. For example, as you look at the first sign, you might say:

If I see a sign and I can read the words, I will know what to do. Let’s look at the first sign we see in the book. Where do you think we might see a sign like this? Yes, you might see in a store. The words on this sign say “Come in, we’re OPEN.” What does it mean when the sign says “Come in, we’re OPEN”?

As you read, continue to engage your child in discussions about the signs. You might use picture clues to guide discussions. For example,

Here is a sign you would see near train tracks. It says ‘Railroad Crossing’. What would we need to do if we saw that sign?

You might also provide some background information. For example:

The colors of the signs help us to know what the signs mean. A red sign often means to stop. A yellow or orange sign is telling us to be very careful. A green light or sign usually means it’s ok to go.


Oral Language

Point out and talk about road signs that you see as you drive through your neighborhood or while you are doing errands.

Beginning Writing

Give your child something to draw on while you are in the car. Encourage him to draw a sign he sees; perhaps you can help him create a sign book.

Letter Knowledge

Create three action signs as follows:

  1. Red octagonal STOP sign
  2. Yellow inverted triangle (similar to a Yield sign) with the word SLOW written on it
  3. Green circle with the word GO printed on it

Tell your child that you are going to play a game and that these three signs will help him play the game. Tell him that you are going to ask him to do a movement and then show one of the signs. You might say:

One sign is green and has the word “GO.” When you see this sign you can start moving. This sign is red and has the word “STOP.” When you see this sign, you will have to freeze in place. This sign is yellow and has the word “SLOW.” When you see “SLOW”, you will have to move very slowly. Let’s try it.

Give your child an action as you alternate holding up the three signs. Guide as necessary. Actions might include movements like walking or running in place, hopping, jumping, clapping, or circling arms. Add new motions that you think your child would enjoy.

Explore more recommended children's books and at-home reading activities for three-year-olds, or take the Reading BrightStart! Preschool Reading Screener. The screener can help you determine if your child is on the path to reading readiness, and provides a free plan for moving forward.