Creating a print-rich environment
success in school depends in part on what they bring with them
the first day of kindergarten. Children with a foundation in
literacy—language and listening skills, familiarity with
books, and experience with scribbling and drawing—are
more likely to succeed in all school experiences.
By the end
of first grade, these children are reading simple books and
to write. By the third grade, they shift from “learning
to read” to “reading to learn.” From then
on, reading is a fundamental way they learn about everything,
geography and history to math and science.
As a child
care provider or preschool teacher, you play a critical role
in children’s literacy
development. You help them lay the foundation for literacy by what you
do every day. Some examples:
with children and encourage them to express themselves. (See “Smart
talk: Improving children’s oral language,” ,
stories, sing songs, recite nursery rhymes, and play finger games. (See “Getting
preschoolers ready to read and write,” , Winter 2002.)
scribbling and art activities.
hands-on opportunities for children to explore topics of interest to them,
such as cars, dinosaurs, and butterflies.
parents understand that they are their child’s first teacher.
Children gain literacy skills
not only by interacting with adults and other children but also by interacting
with their surroundings. You can enhance literacy development by providing
a print-rich environment.
What is a print-rich environment?
A print-rich environment is one in which “children interact with many
forms of print, including signs, labeled centers, wall stories, word displays,
labeled murals, bulletin boards, charts, poems, and other printed materials” (Kadlic
and Lesiak, 2003).
A print-rich environment
allows children to see that reading and writing serve real, everyday purposes.
Children observe adults using printed materials and realize that print carries
meaning. They explore print and become motivated to try to read and write
What makes an environment print-rich?
In a print-rich environment, children have specific places to explore reading
and writing. They also see and experience a variety of printed materials. Some
Library or book center
Provide a specific place for children to explore books. This might be a table
with a bookshelf or a corner with pillows and rugs. You might add a rocking
chair where you hold children in your lap and read stories. On the wall hang
pictures of children reading.
Stock the shelves with
a variety of books, including picture books and familiar books that children “read” from
memory. Add simple reference books such as a children’s dictionary.
Include teacher-made books and child-made books, constructed by individual
children and by groups, perhaps based on shared experiences.
In addition to books,
add children’s magazines as well as story tapes and tape player.
Provide flannel-board materials and finger puppets so children can re-tell
send children to the library area for time out or other disciplinary action.
You want children to associate reading and books with positive experiences,
not negative ones.
Take dictation from children using large sheets of easel paper and post
them on the wall or an easel. This is an effective way to expand on children’s
interests, preferably on the curriculum topic for the week. Ask open-ended
questions such as: “What do you think will happen to the beans we planted?” “How
did you feel when we laid on our backs watching the clouds?” Write
their quotes verbatim. This gives children the message that there are symbols
their words. You will also find that when you write down exactly what children
say as they say it, over the course of time they will make real strides in
written in the classroom should start at the top left-hand corner of the
page and be written from left to right. With the exception of a child’s
preference on his artwork (see below), all writing should appear the same
way in which children will be taught to read. We are training their eyes
to naturally look to the top left-hand part of the page.
You can reinforce this orientation
when reading by occasionally using your finger to track the words as you
read them, illustrating how the story progresses in the text.
Quotes on children’s artwork
After children finish a collage or painting, ask them individually if they
would like to tell you about their work. Ask if they would like for you to
write it down, and where they want it on the picture. Again, write down what
they say word for word. What children say about their own work tells us what
they are thinking and feeling and their views on the world.
parents to do the same with a child’s artwork. It’s a great
way to enhance communication between parent and child.
Make labels for various items in the room, such as “blocks” and “wastebasket.” Use
markers and sturdy poster board. Labeling gives children the message that
everything can be identified by a set of recognizable, common symbols that
Tips on labeling
label everything in the room. It becomes too visually stimulating
and overwhelming. Label five chairs, not all 20.
sure your labeling is neat. If you cannot print neatly, use a
the style of printing consistent with what your school district
teaches because that is what the children will
to recognize. Big, puffy letters in all capitals may be confusing
to children when they are just learning to recognize letters.
labeling shelves for toys, try to use pictures as well as words.
If a toy is off the shelf, the words alone usually
are not helpful to a pre-reader.
children 4 and older to label their own cubbies. If Carmela
is able to write only a “C,” she knows that
symbol stands for her. That is far better than anything we might
do to label her cubbie. Using a child’s photo also works
well and is meaningful and personal.