Of the 64 reviews, 8 are devoted to print-related topics. These reviews were published between 1981 and 1999. Two notable findings touched on throughout the research literature are:  

Children develop knowledge of print and written language even before learning to read or beginning formal instruction.

Environmental print (i.e., the print found in children’s surroundings, such as on billboards, road signs, etc.) likely plays a significant role in children’s reading development.

Overall, teachers and parents can help children develop print knowledge by reading with them, creating environments rich in literacy materials, using environmental print to teach letters and words in meaningful contexts, and teaching individual print words in a number of contexts (i.e., alone, accompanied by picture cues, and in written contexts).


Ceprano, M. A. (1981). A review of selected research on methods of teaching sight words. Reading Teacher, 35(3), 314-322. 


How can we help children recognize words by sight? Learning to read individual words can be enhanced by pointing out to the child the distinctive features of words and using pictures to help the child understand and remember the meaning of the words. However, most children also need to be taught words within a written context to ensure they understand that reading functions to increase understanding and communication.            




Doctor, E.A. (1981). Considering reading cognitively: A review. South African Journal of Psychology, 11(2), 55-66.


Do we understand printed words entirely by sight when reading, or do we translate all or some of what we see into the sounds of spoken language, even when reading silently? Overall, the use of sound-based reading seems to depend on the reading context, the complexity of the material, and the skill of the reader. Reading may be predominantly visual for the deaf and adult skilled readers. Beginning and poor readers, on the other hand, seem to use a largely sound-based reading strategy. There is obviously always a visual element to reading, and whether sound-based reading processes take place before, after, or during sight  reading is unknown. It is also not known whether sound-based reading is an essential part of skilled reading.   




Kontos, S. (1986). What preschool children know about reading and how they learn it. Young Children, 42(1), 58-66.


To learn to read children need to understand what print is, and how and why it is used. Adults can help children develop print knowledge by reading and discussing stories with them, modeling reading and writing, answering print-related questions, and creating environments with a variety of reading and writing play-materials.           




Kuby, P., Goodstadt-Killoran, I., Aldridge, J., & Kirkland, L. (1999). A review of research on environmental print. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 26(3), 173-182.


The print found within children’s natural surroundings—for instance, on road signs, grocery labels, and fast-food signs—can contribute to their early literacy development. Through environmental print children develop knowledge about reading and writing even before they have had any formal reading instruction. The authors suggest using environmental print as a teaching tool by drawing attention to words on billboards, cereal boxes, and so forth,  as a way of teaching children letters and words in meaningful contexts.        




McGee, L. M. (1986). Young children's environmental print reading. Childhood Education, 63(2), 118-125.


Research about environmental print, the print children commonly see in their natural surroundings (on road signs, grocery labels, fast-food signs, etc), has revealed much about children’s understanding of reading and the written language. Even as young as three years old, long before most begin reading, children understand that print has meaning. While the existence of a direct relationship between environmental print and the development of reading ability has yet to be discovered, environmental print probably starts young children on the road to more skilled reading. Teachers should use young children’s interest in environmental print as a springboard into other literacy activities. As non-readers, children show little interest in isolated print, so teachers need to seize every opportunity to teach children words in meaningful contexts.




Purcell-Gates, V. (1986). Three levels of understanding about written language acquired by young children prior to formal instruction. National Reading Conference Yearbook, 35, 259-265.


Children learn about written language on three levels. First, they learn about language as a whole, and the role it plays within their culture. Second, they learn about the nature and characteristics of written language. Third, they learn about the relationship between print and speech. It is important to note that learning at all three levels takes place simultaneously, and that the three levels of learning occur prior to direct instruction. Therefore, no child enters formal reading and writing instruction with a blank slate, yet not all children begin instruction with the same knowledge. Overall, children who interact with a literate culture tend to be more ready for formal reading instruction.




Teale, W. H. (1987). Emergent literacy: reading and writing development in early childhood. National Reading Conference Yearbook, 36, 45-74.


While children do not always use adult-like learning strategies, they remain active constructors of knowledge, especially with respect to reading and writing. Even before formal reading instruction begins, young children actively engage in language-based interactions with their world. For instance, there is strong indication that reading to children and providing a literacy rich environment helps the development of their reading and writing skills. The print found within children’s natural surroundings—for instance, on road signs, grocery labels, and fast-food signs—also seems to play a role early literacy, however the nature of that role remains unclear. Research evidence can and is being successfully applied to teaching young children to read.        




van Kleeck, A. (1990). Emergent literacy: learning about print before learning to read. Topics in Language Disorders, 10(2), 25-45.


Almost from birth, children begin to learn about print by encountering meaningful real-life situations where print is used. Children’s knowledge of print comes from learning about both reading and writing. While there is a great deal of variability in the rate of children’s early literacy development, language delays in the preschool years often foreshadow difficulties in reading, writing, and spelling during the early school years. The development of pre-literacy knowledge of print can be promoted in both normal and language delayed preschoolers. Guided, informal, everyday interactions involving print (such as storybook reading), and encouraging literacy-related pretend play and game-like literacy activities provide foundations for literacy.      





©2007 by Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation. All rights reserved.