‘You have to understand words … but not read them’: young children becoming readers in a digital age

Given that many young children now enter their early years in education as competent and frequent users of digital technology, this paper examines how this experience influences children's perceptions of reading. Drawing from research conducted with 12 young children (aged 3–6) this paper reports on the ways in which these children were interacting with screen texts and using them to develop strategies to make sense of a whole variety of symbolic representations, including print. It is argued that the medium of computer technology in particular was seen to encourage young children to develop both understandings about texts and the skills needed to read them. This included specific aspects of print awareness as well as a general confidence in handling print. However, this confidence appeared to diminish as the children encountered ‘schooled’ approaches to print literacy. It is therefore concluded that schools need to find ways in which to capitalise on the use of multimedia in order to promote confidence and skills in young readers today.

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