Environmental Print: Crucial for Readers

Children who learn to read early are exposed to a lot of environmental print.

Stop signs are an example of environmental print.
Stop signs are an example of environmental print. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Environmental print refers to the print on road signs, cereal boxes and other places and objects a child might encounter in his or her natural environment. These might include the word "stop" on a stop sign or the word "Cheerios" on a box of cereal. Environmental print is the first introduction most children have to reading, and is often used in preschools and kindergarten as part of "reading readiness" programs.

In terms of early childhood development, environmental print is part of determining whether a child is an early reader, and can help in an assessment of a child's potential giftedness.

Print awareness among preschool children is considered an indicator of early reading skill, and most children have at least some print awareness by the time they enter first grade. Those children who don't have sufficient print awareness before starting school are often at risk of falling behind or struggling with reading concepts.

Research has repeatedly shown that children who are read to by a family member can more easily identify letters from the alphabet, compared to children who are read to less frequently.

Parents can encourage print awareness by exposing children to books and other reading materials from a very young age. Most print awareness begins in the home, and the child's everyday environment.

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