Originally developed by literacy researcher Marie Clay, the concepts of print assessment is a book-reading task which involves teachers evaluating a child’s ability to identify features of text and book handling (Wohlwend, 2017). This assessment is a useful strategy which teachers can use to understand what individual students know specifically about book concepts, directionality, letter and word recognition, as well as punctuation. Awareness of student developmental progress, such as literacy skills, is vital to a teacher’s capability to provide stimulating learning opportunities. Areas of accomplishment and improvement needs can easily be distinguished for early readers through a concepts of print assessment. This information enables teachers to thoroughly support their student comprehension of print concepts by structuring lesson plans that are personalized to the developmental levels of students and challenges growth. Teachers can further use the assessment information for communicating progress with families and promote exposure, as well as engagement, to concepts of print at home. Essentially, assessing concepts of print is beneficial because insight of students’ individual abilities permits teachers to successfully address areas in need of improvement and assist students to develop crucial early literacy skills.
The increasing use and ease of access which early readers have to digital media raises the question if mobile devices – such as iPads – are efficient tools to support concepts of print. The interactive nature of touchscreen tablets involves a navigation system unlike traditional book handling yet appears to be capable of providing a form of reading practice. In the fascinating video “A Magazine is an iPad That Does Not Work” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXV-yaFmQNk), a young toddler is shown navigating through an iPad with ease before attempting the same navigation notions with the text and pictures of a paper magazine. The child’s clicking and scrolling on the pages of the magazine does not result with her expected outcome based on prior experience of digital reading, although she clearly demonstrates concept of print (Wohlwend, 2017). By her movements to tap on recognized images of pictures and text, the child displayed an understanding to activate the touchscreens icons which symbolize literate actions.
Even though mobile devices are suggested to be a new and useful literacy disposition, I am skeptical how well touchscreen tablets can promote long-lasting literacy skills compared to traditional book reading. Past educational research strongly confirms that children learn through physical senses during repetitive motor play experiences (Wohlwend, 217). Regarding reading with toddlers, sensory experiences greatly differ between traditional board-books and iPads. For example, an iPad may be proficient for audio reading possibilities but is unable to permit toddlers to explore texture as a board-book can. I feel that reliance on touchscreen tablets over traditional books could hinder literacy learning opportunities, reduce interest in books, and lower reading comprehension. I am also concerned that overuse of touchscreen tablets may decrease the quality and time children spend reading with adults as well as peers, particularly in the preschool classroom setting. According to National Association for the Education of Young Children, appropriate use of tablets in the preschool classroom monitors time used, encourages social interaction, and should intentionally extend learning (NAEYC, 2012). Altogether, I believe mobile devices can be useful literacy tools for young readers to explore concepts of print when usage is apt in the classroom setting.
NAEYC. (2012). Touch and Grow: Learning and Exploring Using Tablets. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/oct2012/learning-exploring-tablets
Wohlwend, K. E. (2017). Toddlers and touchscreens: Learning “Concepts Beyond Print” with tablet technologies. In R. J. Meyer & K. F. Whitmore (Eds.), Reclaiming Early Literacy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.