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Print-Rich Environments

This version was saved 10 years, 5 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by stephanie rodrigues
on April 24, 2013 at 1:34:05 pm

Established & edited by: Kimberly Leyva, Caitlin McClure, & Stephanie Rodrigues

Extended by: Monica Martinez, Lynna Salas, & Nenette Stephens 

Embellished by: Wendy Angleman, Stephanie Lopez, & Astro Musquiz



Created by Dr. Kimberly Tyson 


Print Rich Environments


     There is general agreement in the field of literacy that the amount of print experience will have an important impact on one's literacy development (Duke, 2000). However, when presented with the challenge to create a print rich environment little is explained. As a teacher the first response to this challenge is to label everything in the classroom and create a letter or word wall. There is more to creating an environment that promotes literacy skill development. We will explore  what a print rich environment is; key components to a print rich environment;how a print rich environment benefits students.



Quoted by Kadlic & Lesiak (2003).


 What is a Print Rich Environment?

              Print rich environments in early childhood classrooms include two main areas, the physical environment and the social environment. It is also important to keep in mind that “print-rich environments may be rich for some groups and poor for those groups that do not see themselves or their social literacy practices reflected in the environment(Hall, 2003).” When promoting early literacy development teachers have the opportunity to support reading achievement for all children.


    Print-rich environments are sometimes described as being full of print. Printed labels are posted on doors, windows, bookcases, sinks, etc. Printed signs are also used to designate the theme or purpose of different learning centers. Books, magazines, and other print materials are also provided. Creating a print-rich environment requires more than “simply ‘littering’ the places where children play with print. Play environments which become literacy learning environments must be carefully planned by informed adults” (Neuman & Roskos, 1994, p. 264). They must also address both the social and physical dimensions of the environment.  


       The Physical Environment

                The physical environment includes the layout of your classroom, resources available to your students, and access and use of materials within the classroom.  Collectively, literacy-rich environments include structural components, language opportunities, and classroom management strategies (Ball,2009). Structural components include teachers' organization of classroom materials, supplies, and furniture, all of which have a significant impact on the quality of the literacy environment (Searfoss, Readence, & Mallette, 2001). A teacher's choice of literacy tools and activities influences the way in which children learn information as well as the specific skills they acquire. For example, the availability of writing utensils and aids, paper, and books allows children to independently and routinely incorporate literacy activities into their day. Likewise, spreading literacy-related materials around the room prompts children to use their reading and writing skills in many situations. Finally, designated work spaces that include seating, books, and writing materials allow children to feel comfortable engaging in literacy-related activities (Ball,2009).



This video shows how a student is incorporating literacy into the Art Center. The teacher provided books in this center as an opportunity to encourage literacy, and show the importance of literacy in every activity.


         It should also include student work that is displayed. Your classroom library should include enough books and magazines and should be readily available to the class. It does not include books or matierials that are in storage containers or otherwise off limits to students. textbooks, basal readers, school library books or other matierials kept in individual student desks are not included in the print environment. Written language activities are also included in print rich environments. But the amount and level of print involved in the activity should be considered. The amount of student authorship in the activity.


     The Social Environment 



In this video it shows two students playing in the ABC center. They are discussing how to write one students name. He uses his name tag for centers to check and show understanding to the other student. 


            The social environment includes the interactions between the students and their teachers, peers, and environment.  It should be directed at the students and not the parents or teachers. Preschool children spontaneously used almost twice as much print in their play than they did prior to the environmental changes (Neuman & Roskos, 1989)

     Literacy skills emerge within a community of literacy. Human interactions such as sharing a picture book, telling a story and talking about experiences are central to emergent literacy” (Wilson, 2003, p. 77).


     Children learn best through play.  Arrange spaces so children can: engage in meaningful first-hand learning which makes the need for language real and necessary and to use language to manage themselves, convince others of their point of view, and control their social and physical environments and to develop awareness of the purpose and use of print. The idea is for children to be actively engaged in meaningful learning, either alone or with others. As children work in learning centers, they learn social skills, especially cooperation and sharing, and are exposed with the ideas, attitudes and values of others (Lanser & McDonnell, 1991). Actively engaged with each other, and with learning, children find the need to use both spoken and written language. A workshop environment, where children can be actively engaged with materials, is especially necessary for children whose primary language is other than English. In a classroom structured for active learning, non-English speakers learn English from both formal and informal interactions with their English-speaking peers and adults (Cummins, 1989; Wong-Filmore, 1991).


This video shows children learning through play. They are in dramatic play center, and are pretending to be a coach and the players. She is directing them on what to do as well as writing down her notes on how they are performing.


What are the Benefits of a Print Rich Environment on Early Literacy for all Children? 


     While print rich environments benefit all students it particularly benefits early literacy learners. Prior &Gerard (2004) discovered that environmental print is one of the first sources of reading material for young children and serves as soil for the roots of literacy. For all students to be reached, its important to target the children that you have in your classroom in order for the print rich environment to be beneficial. This means that the environmental print needs to be implemented correctly.

     A literacy-rich environment does more than provide visual exposure to print. It also provides opportunities for meaningful interaction with it. A well-prepared literacy-rich environment invites children’s active engagement in at least two different modalities in the practice of integrating visual and verbal literacies to foster emergent literacy skills.  Edwards and Willis (2000), suggest  to “select one or two unusual ‘literacies’ to become specializations for your classroom, such as photography, clay, or drama, and entwine them throughout your curriculum throughout the school year” (p. 263). This suggestion is based in the understanding that different materials offer different qualities, that can be used to help children record and communicate their ideas in a variety of ways. Also engage children in using songs, chants, dramas, dances, and games as different expressions of literacy; not just only seeing and using print. This approach matches the way young children learn. As conveyed by Edwards and Willis (2000), “it is natural for young children to seek to master and use many alternative ‘literacies,’ or avenues of symbolic representation offered by their culture, such as drawing, painting, gesture, construction, dramatic play, and words” (pp. 259-260).

      Neuman and Roskos (1990) found that parental interaction with preschool children combined with a print rich environment produced the strongest effects on literacy development. Collaboration between home and school appears to be best for literacy development. Beneifts begin to show themselves, “as children become aware and attuned to the print in their environment, their vocabulary of recognizable words grow.” (Prior & Gerard, 2004) This type of environment will help early literacy learners develop the skills they need to read, if executed appropriately. When children spend a considerable amount of time in one place, what they are exposed to is important. Wright (2012) points out that Print rich environments help children to discover that oral language is not the only form of communication and that people can communicate through print as well. Exposing children to more than one form of communication sparks interest and interest turns into learning. This connection quickly becomes the making of meaning for reading.


As a Pre-Kindergarten teacher, I have been able to see the benefits of providing a print rich environment to students who may not have the same print exposure as other students. I have also been able to see the results of this in our test scores. At the beginning of the year when the students are first placed in our classroom most of them come from homes where there is little to no print exposure. The scores show that they have not had as much exposure. However, after 4 months when we test for middle of year you can already see the benefits and the scores increase. I also have the ability to see students get excited when they see a new book or our book orders come in. It also provides opportunities for parents to gain a better understanding of what they can do to provide the same type of environment. The following are our test scores comparing from beginning of the year to the middle of the year. You can see the increase of letter ID, vocabulary, and phonemic awareness.


Results of the CIRCLE assessment (results are an average of 14 Pre Kindergarten students)










"The young child who successfully internalizes the meaning-making function of reading, enjoys a sense of accomplishment and finds point of entry into the complex world of literacy." (Prior & Gerard, 2004) 





How to Implement Print Rich Environments   


There are a variety of ways to implement print rich environments in the early childhood classroom. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the most effective way to incorporate print rich environments is through the various centers implemented within a classroom. The most basic form of implementation is through labeling of centers and all materials within each center, but according to NAEYC, there are a variety of other methods to embed such print environments with more thoroughness.

            The most obvious of centers to implement within an early literacy classroom would be a literacy and writing center. These centers should be done in a way that provides “many opportunities to explore books, draw, write, and begin to recognize familiar words and names” (Carter & Pool, 2011). All children should place a variety of books/magazines/student-produced books on low laying accessible shelves with available access. It is also recommended that texts be shifted in and out of the literacy center with enough frequency that books are relevant to what is being explored by children and to help foster new discover of interests.

            Likewise, the same approach should be taken within the writing center. There should be ample materials and accessibility for children to engage with writing authentically and in a way that allows them to discover new elements of print. Materials other than paper and pencils/crayons/or markers should be utilized as well. The most important being materials for children to create their own books. It is said that just as having quality print materials for children to engage with is important, it is also important for children to explore their own writing, and to have opportunities to engage with writing of their peers. This is also where the social aspect of print rich environments plays a role.


             Print rich environments can also be extended into the computer, science and drama centers.  Allowing students the opportunity to read words using pictures they are familiar with along with a variety of writing tools expose them to print rich environments.  The drama center is an area in the room that does not normally consist of print; however is it very easy to incorporate it.  Place menus from commonly known restaurants such as McDonald's, Chuck E. Cheese or even Chili's in the area.  Include clipboards, paper and pencils.  Students can use this familiar print to take orders and role play.  Placing real cereal boxes, food can labels or snack boxes in the drama area is also a great way to integrate print into the drama center.  Students are familiar with this print and they recognize that it has meaning.  


         The science center and the computer center usually requires directions and/or instructions.  Using picture cues along with printed directions will help students recognize the meaning of the print.  Labeling all of the materials and directions using the same picture cues along with the print is a great way to introduce directional print.  Gradually students will recognize the print without the need of the picture cues.  


     Juli Pool and Deborah Carter explain various ways to add print into different areas of the classroom by using centers at http://www.naeyc.org/files/tyc/file/V4N4/Creating_print-rich_learning_centers.pdf


            According to researchers Copeland & DiLuzzio who looked at literacy instruction for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders also emphasized that not only for this particular demographic of children, but for all children, word walls are another way in which the print environment of the classroom can be enhanced. “In addition to supporting phonemic, sight word, and vocabulary” acquisition, word walls can also be used to target or enhance certain curriculum or subject explorations. Across the curriculum, word walls can be a means to solidify important words that are necessary to a specific unit of study, and do not only need to encompass use of words or letters. Such word walls can also be interactive in which students are responsible for producing the words that should be incorporated onto the word wall. Words can then encompass use of pictures or symbols to help aid in the acquisition of such vocabulary (2010). 


     Perceptive educators know the importance of the first stage in the reading development and provide an assortment of activities to enlighten children with literacy in fulfilling ways. Educators essentially incorporate a literacy-rich environment where children have authentic opportunities to become engaged in a variety of listening, talking, reading, and writing activities. “Literacy-rich environments are clearly of great value. They allow children to practice literacy behaviors and language in ways that make sense to them” (Neuman & Roskos , 1994, p. 264).


Preschool - Print Awareness

video link



Toddler - Print Awareness

video link


Toddler - Print Motivation

video link


            Wilson (2003), describes “becoming literate” as “a dynamic process, through which literacy-related competencies grow and change” (p. 77). The path to literacy is multifaceted and involves far more than learning to encode and decode print on the page. A richer description of literacy development is offered by Britsch and Meier (1999). They refer to children’s literacy development as “a dynamic, developmental process involving language, thought, and social interaction” (p. 209).


Classroom Labeling as part of Print-Rich Environment


     One feature of a print-rich classroom where Kids can be expose to reading in classroom is classroom labeling. Labeling helps to make an atmosphere that puts Kids at ease and contributes to independent learning.

Labeling also:

      • Helps Kids identify that words have meaning
     • Infuses the environment with print

     • Helps Kids develop responsibility as they care for the materials they use                                  
     • Turns clean-up time into a important learning opportunity
     • Gives visual clues to the place of items
     • Makes it easier for the staff to keep list of classroom materials
     • Adds to the appeal and association of the classroom

What Teacher can do:

  • Discuss pictures and captions with children.
  • Encourage children to dictate their labels for their own artwork. 
  •  Children's work should be displayed throughout the room.

 Labeling Guidelines

It is important for classroom to have its own character  that reflects the Kids  and staff’s backgrounds and personalities. The following are essential guidelines (but not limited) to follow:

     • Use upper and lowercase letters properly—only proper names begin with an uppercase letter.
     • Words are printed or typed neatly.
     • All words are spelled correctly.
     • The letters used in a label are of the similar size, type, and color.


The following based from Neuman (2004) are suggested ways child-care providers enhance print-rich environment for young children:

  • Print-rich environmentsCenters included writing tables, functional signs, and symbols that stimulated children to use literacy. Signs that had meaning for children (not mere decoration) helped to communicate the important message that literacy was an integral part of daily activity.
  • "Cozy Corner" library nook. Each center had a place where children could sit in cozy, small spaces and read together. Often these spaces included soft things, such as stuffed animals, pillows, and dolls, so that even a child alone could feel welcome to read.
  •  Literacy-related play areas. Props, such as memo pads, recipes, and cookbooks, helped children incorporate print in a very natural way.
  •  Interactive circle times. In contrast to being read to, children could actively participate in reading aloud. Teachers would stop, ask questions, encourage discussion of ideas, raise new questions based on children's comments, and generate a participatory role in reading with children.
  •  Interactive meal times. Teachers sat with children and engaged them in conversation during meals and snack times. Often this time became an opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with children, to hear about their daily activities outside of the center, and to connect their home and center worlds.
  •  Small-group activities. Teachers would engage children in reading, writing, handwriting, or math activities in small groups.



How to Measure Your Print Rich Environment 

(Hoffman, 2004)


There are 3 ways to measure a print rich environment:


The TEX-in 3 (Hoffman, 2004)


Text Inventory

Considers all texts in the classroom that are accessible to students. 17 Different categories are considered

Texts In-Use

Is a snapshot of how the teachers and students interact with the texts in the environment. 3 separate 30 minute observations. Should focus on reading time, language arts, science, social studies, and math.

Text Interviews

2 interviews are done one with students and one with teachers. This helps to understand what literacy means to the community in which it is being actively engaged in. Interviews are rated on a scale 1-5. 1 being little importance and 5 being of high importance.


Text Inventory Components (Hoffman,2004)


Computers/electronic texts

Internet access, software programs, books-on-tape

Extended text process charts


KWL charts, writing process charts, math strategies



Instructional materials to be considered in this category they must feature text prominently. Bingo, word sorts, felt stories

Instructional aids

Charts used to support direct instruction Instructional Aid Charts focus on content while Process Charts focus on process. morning message, labels, vocabulary lists



Personal journals, literature response logs, draft writing.

Leveled books


Basal readers, decodable books.

Limited text process charts

Word walls, alphabet charts, spelling “demon” charts

Organizational/management charts:

Student-helpers chart, class rules, objectives, etc.


Consider the range of texts collected, the processes of collecting texts, the access and use of these texts

Reference materials:


Atlas, dictionary, encyclopedia, English grammar handbook, thesaurus, globe, maps.


Highlights, Scholastic newspapers, classroom newspapers

Social/personal/inspirational text displays:


Homework Allstars chart

Student/teacher published work:

individual-student-authored books


mathematics textbooks, science textbooks, English



Picture books and chapter books, narrative, expository, procedural.

Work product displays:

Displays of teacher or student work that is being shown for others to enjoy.

Writing on paper:

reading, math, workbooks/worksheets; paper for creative writing.


Text Interviews


Scale for Teacher interview (Hoffman, 2004)

 Elaborated/enriched The teacher demonstrates a rich understanding of al­most all the texts and how they are used in the classroom. The teacher has shown considerable personal initiative in creating a rich text environment.
 Good understanding  The teacher understands and values the wide range of available texts. Local texts are valued and used in the classroom.
 Basic understanding  The teacher demonstrates a basic understanding of the range of texts in the classroom, how they are used, and why. The teacher expresses satisfaction with the text environment and is not actively seeking to expand the text re­sources in his or her classroom.
 Vague awareness  The teacher demonstrates a rudimentary understanding of the most basic texts in the classroom. The teacher may be aware of the limitations of the texts in the classroom but has not showed a great deal of initiative in bringing other texts into the room.
 No knowledge  The teacher demonstrates no knowledge or very limited knowledge of even the most basic commercial texts and how they might work in the classroom. The teacher shows no apparent awareness that the text environment is very limited.

Scale for Student Interview(Hoffman,2004)

Elaborated/enriched The student demonstrates a rich understanding of al­most all the texts and how they are used in the classroom. The student also has an awareness of what might be added to enrich the text environment
Good understanding The student understands and values almost all of the texts in the classroom. Text use is still primarily controlled and dictated by the teacher, but there is some evidence of personal choice in text use.
Basic understanding The student demonstrates a basic understanding of most of the texts in the classroom and how they are used. The student values the texts but is not particularly articulate about the purposes of the texts in relation to learning goals or outcomes.
Vague awareness The student demonstrates a basic understanding of the most basic texts in the classroom. The student has may have no knowledge of or experience with a number of texts.
No knowledge The student demonstrates no knowledge or very limited knowledge of even the most basic commercial texts and how they work in the classroom. Valuing of the texts is limited at the personal level.


The CLEP developed by  Wolfersburger and Sudweeks (Hoffman,2004)


  The Classroom Literacy Environment Profile (CLEP). Contains 33 items that covered four areas of a classroom literacy environment.


Classroom Literacy Tools 
Classroom Arrangement 
Student Interest in Literacy 
Student Interactions 


The ELLCO developed by Smith, Dickinson, Sangeorge, and Anastasopoulos (Hoffman, 2004)


The Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO)


 The ELLCO is used to measure the functional, inter­actional, and language and literacy aspects of the classroom environment as well as the broad support offered for literacy in prekindergarten through third-grade classrooms. 











Ball, C., & Gettinger, M. (2009). Monitoring children's growth in early literacy skills: Effects of feedback on performance and classroom environments. Education and Treatment of Children, 32(2), doi:10.1353/etc.0.0055 Retrieved from http://uq5sd9vt7m.search.serialssolutions.com


Britsch, S. J. & Meier, D. R. (1999). Building a literacy community: The role of literacy and social practice in early childhood programs. Early Childhood Education Journal, 26(4), 209-215.


Carter, D. R., & Pool, J. L. (2011). Creating print rich learning centers. Teaching Young Children, 4(4). NAEYC, 18-20. 


Duke, N. K. (2000). For the rich it's richer: Print experiences and environments offered to children in very low- and very high-socioeconomic status first grade classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 441-478. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1163530 


Edwards, C. P. & Willis, L. M. (2000). Integrating visual and verbal literacies in the early childhood classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 27(4), 259-265.


Hall, N., Larson, J., & Marsh, J. (2003). Handbook of early childhood literacy. SAGE Publications Ltd. Retrieved from http://knowledge.sagepub.com.libweb.lib.utsa.edu/view/hdbk_earlyliteracy/n27.xml


Hoffman, J. V., Sailors, M., Duffy, G. R., & Beretvas, S. N. (2004). The effective elementary classroom. Journal of Literacy Research, 36(3), 303-334. Retrieved from http://jlr.sagepub.com/content/36/3/303.full.pdf


Kadlic, M. & Lesiak, M. A. (2003). Early reading and scientifically-based research; Implications for practice in early childhood education programs. National Association of State Title I Directors of Conference. Retrieved from:  http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/read/ereadingsbr03/ecreading03.pdf


Keefe, E., Copeland, S., & DiLuzzio, H. (2010). Creating print-rich environments to support literacy instruction. Quality literacy instruction for students with autism spectrum disorders (pp. 161-187). Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Textbooks. 


Neuman, S. B., & Roskos, K. (1990). Play, print, and purpose: Enriching play environments for literacy development. The Reading Teacher, 44(3), 214-221. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20200594


Neuman, S. B. (2004). The effect of print-rich classroom environments on early literacy growth. The Reading Teacher, 58(1), 89-91. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/203278609?accountid=7122


Prior, J. O., & Gerard, M. R. (2004). Environmental print in the classroom, meaningful connections for learning to read. International Reading Assoc.


Searfoss, W., Readence, J., & Mallette, M. (2001). Helping children learn to read: Creating a classroom literacy environment. Toronto, CA: Allyn & Bacon.


Wilson, R.A. (2003). Special educational needs in the early years (2nd edition). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.


Wright, A. (2012). Creating a print rich environment at home for early reading success . Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/creating-a-print-rich-environment-at-home-for-early-reading-success









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