Writing is an object in itself—marks on a surface—as well as a representation of a linguistic structure. This chapter discusses the surface properties of words and texts, including the fact that writing is artificial, two dimensional, and non-iconic. It is composed of separable units that are laid out on straight lines that run in a specific direction, and the same unit rarely repeats itself more than once in succession. The chapter reviews research on how preschool children learn about the graphic properties of writing and how they distinguish writing from other two-dimensional displays, including pictures and numerals. The research shows that children in literate societies learn about some of the formal properties of writing well before they go to school. Although young children pay little attention to print when being read to from storybooks, other activities in the home environment promote the development of print awareness.
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