and look where you point, as you read the book and share the pictures. Toddlers start recognizing favorite books by their cover, pretend to read books, and understand that books are handled in certain ways. As they reach their fourth year, children increasingly come to understand that it is the print that is read in stories, and that this print contains alphabet letters that are a special category of visual items, different even from numbers. They recognize print in their home, their neighborhood, and other local environments.

First Attempts: Pretending to Read—Emergent Reading

“Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown,” proclaims a three-year-old girl, who pretends to read the cover page and author’s name. With great relish, she opens the book and recites much of the book from memory.

Her mother knows that she is not yet reading the print but encourages her just the same. Intuitively, she suspects what has been found by research to be true: that children who pretend to read at this early age are more likely to become successful readers later.

“… and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon,” continues the girl. She lifts the book close to her eyes and scrutinizes the print on the page. “A-B-A-B-Z,” she recites, while pointing to the word “cow.” This is an important connection. Already, she knows that words are made of letters that can be named. She resumes the story word for word, turning pages slowly. “Goodnight noises everywhere,” she whispers, then suddenly shifts her voice, loudly pronouncing “The End” and proudly snapping the book shut.

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