Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Dr. Arthur Smith


In this study, the researcher investigated the hypothesis generating process that emergent readers apply when encountering environmental messages. A debate has arisen concerning the transition period when emergent readers begin to see the significance of print around them. The step from reading messages using all cues to reliance only on print was first seen as a natural occurrence, but recent research has been unable to prove or disprove this. Using familiar, unfamiliar, correct and altered logos and labels the researcher questioned preschoolers about the stimuli's meanings and what part of the stimuli gave them that information. The researcher then used the same stimuli and discussed the difference of reading before and after starting school with second graders.

The researcher concluded that emergent readers, although they rely heavily on all cuing systems know that print is meaningful. The emergent readers took the messages at face value; the print simply "said" the message. They did not seem aware of the abstract sound system the print represented. When asked to reproduce stimuli, the preschoolers focused on the print rather than pictures, colors or other cues. The hypotheses that the preschoolers held were constantly changing, as witnessed through the interviews. The emergent readers felt they were reading. The second graders could not explain why their attitudes changed, but they remembered being able to read the stimuli before going to school. They felt they read it differently having been in school.

The researcher did find a marked decline in the confidence level between the preschoolers and second graders. The simple wholeness of the messages seemed to be lost. What was retained was that the print in the environment is the meaning giving part of all messages and that is what needs to be focused on and mastered in order to read. No evidence was given to support that a child will naturally learn how to read from exposure to environmental messages. Although they can declare the print as having meaning, it is only the whole message that they know. They have no awareness that words are letters and letters are symbols for sounds. They simply know that the word McDonald's is a restaurant serving burgers and fries. They do not see the need to know more.