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Environmental print, the words, labels, signs, and logos we see every day help to shape emergent literacy practices (Snow, Burns,& Griffin, 1998; Vera, 2011). Children learn how print carries meaning and how words and text function (Harste, Burke, & Woodward, 1981.

picture of cityscape with signs

img credit: Orellana, M. F., & Hernandez, A. (1999). Talking the walk: Children reading urban environmental print. The Reading Teacher, 52(6), 612-619.


We know children perform logographic reading with environmental print. This means they use the visual cuse around them to read environmental print. They may know a word says book when they see it in the class library but not when the word gets printed alone (Frith, 1985). You can also switch the letters around and read the print.

Goodman (1986), for example, had students read cereal boxes, toothpaste, stop signs and soda. 60% of the 3-year-olds i and 80% of the 5-year-olds could read the print.

Yet environmental print, even as logographic reading, strengthens emergent literacy skills (Salewski, 1995; Vera, 2011). In urban schools scholars have researched literacy walks useful fo students to create a window into the competencies or “funds of knowledge” (Moll, 1992).

We also know adults are key in learning emergent literacy through environmental print. Neuman and Roskos (1993) taught 177 children of color to create three groups who were exposed to three conditions:

  1. Office Play with Adult Interaction
  2. Office play with Adult Monitor
  3. Office Play

No difference was found for children's understanding of functions of print with stuff like mail and phone books, but the parent-teacher active engagement with children in the office setting significantly influenced the children's ability to read environmental print and label functional items.

In the Classroom

environmental_print.txt · Last modified: 2021/06/10 17:07 by