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  • Jeanine Holtsford

How to use your Grocery Store as a Language Lesson

In the book, Max Explains Everything--Grocery Store Expert by: Stacy McAnulty, a boy and his mother run out of everyday supplies and, despite faking numerous injuries, Max is forced to go to the store AGAIN. With engaging pictures and humor infused throughout the story, Max hits each aisle bargaining for what he wants. He even grabs a bag of dog food in hopes that might lead to getting a dog. The book alternates between Max narrating his thoughts about the store and conversing directly with his mother. The book ends with them back home having a treat but acknowledging that they will have to go back again next week.


I loved those trips to the store with my own children, not because they always behaved perfectly or didn't barrage me with requests for the least healthy options the store had to offer, but because the OPPORTUNITY for meaningful language exchanges was so rich. We would go through the aisles naming as many fruits as we could find (categorizing) or looking for all things small, round and red (describing) or talking about how oranges and sweet potatoes are the same and how they are different (comparing/contrasting). These are all important pre-reading skills that help develop early language skills, which are the spring board for learning and early school success. In addition, trying to find things that start with the letter A or naming an item and thinking of a rhyming word set the stage for early literacy skills.


Lately, when I go to the grocery store, I see lots of people on electronic devices. Moms are looking at Instagram. Kids are watching a movie or u-tube clip and the wonderful opportunity for enriching language has been wasted. Research shows that even educational content on electronic devises is no match for meaningful conversation and interactions. So next time you are out of toilet paper, (as Max knows all about from the story above) put the devices down, look around, and dive into all the rich opportunities for meaningful communication that surround you at your local grocery store.


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