Early reading development news: Young children recognize printed words with meaning even before learning to read


A new child development study of Rebecca Treiman and her colleagues reveals that 3- to 5-year-old children who do not know how to read yet can recognize that printed words have meaning.

In a series of 12 trials involving 114 children, researchers tested how kids can understand that written symbols represent a meaning to an assigned picture. They conducted two experiments to test how children react to words and drawings.

The first experiment examined how children respond to certain words when an experimenter read the text and a puppet gave an alternative label. Results reveal that children stated that the puppet was incorrect in providing alternative label to a written word.

The second experiment examined how children react to the puppet when providing an alternative label to a picture. Most of the children responded that the puppet was correct in providing an alternative label to a drawing. 

This study by the group researchers from Washington University was the first to reveal that preschoolers can recognize that written texts have meaning. Earlier studies of Dickson and others from Clark University regarding children this age and reading involve the importance of co-construction of text through home and school reading and the ways that children can benefit in the long-term basis by encouraging talk while reading. Much earlier studies also encourage reading to preschoolers in order for them to enhance their concepts about the printed words and the meaning brought by these words to the story.

Studies regarding reading in the early stage are crucial in the field of education, especially since the National Center of Learning Disabilities reported in 2014 that almost 2.4 million American public school students are experiencing learning difficulties. Reading difficulties are among the most prevalent characteristic of students with LD in the American public schools.