How Environmental Print Helps Children Learn to Read

Burger King sign shows environmental print
Fast food signs are an example of environmental print. Getty Images News

Knowing the definition of environmental print is important for parents, caregivers, and educators who seek to transform the young children in their lives into readers. Improve your understanding of environmental print and how it plays a key role in transitioning children into readers with this review of this pre-literacy concept.

What Is Environmental Print?

In short, the environmental print is simply the words that surround us in our everyday environment.

It is the recognizable logo for your child's favorite restaurant. Kids who love McDonald's, for example, can recognize the golden arches found at each location of the fast-food restaurant long before they can read the restaurant chain's name.

Environmental print is also the words "Fisher-Price" written in white letters against a red background on the boxes of your children's toys. But that's not all. Environmental print includes the labels on all the food you buy at the grocery store. It can be the logo on processed foods, such as a famous brand of canned vegetables or a cereal box. The more your child loves a particular brand the more likely it is that they will recognize the environmental print on the packaging. 

Children learn to "read' environmental print much earlier than they learn to read books and other forms of print, so many teachers use environmental print as a tool to encourage reading.

Environmental print can help children learn to read because some of this print actually includes words.

In addition to the Fisher-Price description mentioned above, children can learn to spot the "Exit" signs commonly found in school hallways and other buildings. They may also begin to recognize "Stop" signs and other traffic signs found on the roads they travel on.

Before long, they realize that the letters found on such signs are words with meanings, paving the way for them to become literate.

Why Environmental Print Motivates Kids to Start Reading

The idea of reading may be intimidating to some children, but when they find out that they already have a literacy tool at their disposal--environmental print--these children begin to develop confidence in their ability to read. Moreover, the idea that the print in their environments has a purpose and function in their lives brings out their interest in reading. 


Parents, teachers, and caregivers can turn environmental print exercises into fun activities for kids. For example, they can play bingo and memory-matching games using environmental print or use such print for word walls or pocket charts. These activities can engage children's fine motor skills as well. Have them cut out logos from fast-food bags or cereal boxes to participate in games with an environmental print focus.

Wrapping Up

The typical child begins to recognize environmental print without much prodding from teachers, caregivers or parents. However, if your child doesn't seem to be noticing environmental print and is having difficulty recognizing sight words and with other early reading concepts, discuss your concerns with your child's teacher or pediatrician.


Each child is unique and thus all children learn at a unique pace, but if your child potentially has a learning disability, it's important to get her help as soon as possible to prevent the disability from derailing her academic progress. Early intervention is key.