This is the first of a four post series about “The Big Four” of preschool literacy instruction. These four components to a complete literacy curriculum in preschool are print awareness, oral language development, the alphabetic principle. and phonological awareness. Each post in the series will explain what each component is, why it is important to preschool literacy, and what teaching strategies can help develop these skills, as well as a list of books and games that help develop each pre-reading skill. This series is appropriate for all teachers, parents, and caregivers.
If you have missed a post, you can find it here:
What is print awareness?
Print awareness refers to a child’s understanding that written language had a direct relationship with oral language. It is closely related to word awareness, or the ability to recognize words in both written and spoken forms. Also encompassed in print awareness is the knowledge that print had many different forms and uses, but all of which are a means of communication.
Why is print awareness important to early literacy?
Children with strong print awareness skills understand that written language carries meaning, much like spoken language carries meaning, and they also understand that the two are linked. Sometime print can be read and have the exact same meaning as when those words are spoken. Children who struggle with print awareness skills are more likely to struggle with learning to read, and their performance on print awareness tasks are a reliable indicator of their future reading achievement.
Because of the way our world is structured, many children begin developing print awareness skills long before they enter school. Print is all around. Children are exposed to print on billboards and restaurant menus, labels and lists, magazines and newspapers, and books, just to name a few. Being exposed to various types of print, and observing parents and caretakers exploring print helps children to recognize its various forms and uses. Through exposure, and also some explicit instruction, children learn these purposes of print, that billboards are used to sell items or services, menus are used to give options of things to eat at a restaurant, that lists show what items to purchase at a grocery store, that books tell stories, and so on. Exposure, and observing parents and caretakers engaging in print also motivates children to explore print on their own, thus giving them more exposure to the various forms and uses of print. The greater the print awareness skills when a child enters formal schooling, the greater the likelihood that learning how to read will come with ease.
How can print awareness skills be developed?
While exposure to print is an important element in building and strengthening a child’s print awareness skills, the ability to understand how print works does not happen automatically and without intentional activities to support the development of print awareness skills. This understanding comes through the deliberate and active intervention of parents, caregivers, and teachers who point out letters and words and reading materials in the child’s environment. Parents, caregivers and teacher can build and reinforce print awareness skills by the following:
- providing repeated exposure to multiple forms of print
- reading, reading and more reading to the child
- providing access to letter and word games
- pointing our authors and illustrators of a book
- demonstrating how print is organized from top to bottom and left to right by finger tracker
- encouraging children to explore the front of a book, and teach how to identify the front over from the back
- providing exposure to various forms of print via pretend and dramatic play
- singing, finger plays, and reading poetry
- let your child or students see you writing, even if it is as basic as a grocery list or a phone number
- encourage your child or students to “read the pictures” in a storybook
- invite your child or students to turn pages of the book as you read
- providing exposure to, and talking about environmental print
- reading books with strong repetitive text
What are some books that can help develop print awareness skills?
For your convince, I have included some of our favorite products related to building print awareness skills. For your convenience, I have included some affiliate links. I recommend these books because the text in each is well developed and of high interest to young children. The text flows nicely and pairs well with the illustrations.
For similar articles by Stay At Home Educator:
For further reading:
Lay the Groundwork for Reading, with Concepts About Print by Lawren Allphin
Print Awareness by Idaho Commission for Libraries
Print Awareness and Print Concepts by Wake County Public School System
Environmental Print Awareness in Young Children by Danielle Z. Kassow