Most children become aware of print long before the enter former schooling. Called print awareness, it is a child’s first introduction to literacy. This post is your ultimate resource to print awareness.
Everything You Need to Know About Print Awareness
THIS IS THE FIRST POST IN A FOUR-PART SERIES ABOUT THE “BIG FOUR” OF PRESCHOOL LITERACY INSTRUCTION.
Follow along in this four-part series about all the most important components of teaching early literacy.
WHAT ARE THE “BIG FOUR” OF PRESCHOOL LITERACY INSTRUCTION?
Whether working from a commercial program, creating a program of your own, or simply doing literacy activities with your children at home, this four-part series will inform you as to the four major components of pre-reading that every preschool-aged child needs in preparation for formal reading instruction.
This falls true for both phonics based and whole language based programs.
The four components of preschool literacy instruction:
- print awareness (You are here).
- oral language development
- alphabetic principle
- phonological awareness
Prior to this post is an introduction to the four components, known as the “Big Four” of preschool literacy instruction. It explains what researchers know about the importance of preschool literacy instruction.
If you have missed the introductory post, you can find it here:
What is Print Awareness?
Print awareness refers to a child’s understanding that written language has a direct relationship with spoken language. Here is a little more about what is encompassed in print awareness:
- It is closely related to word awareness, the ability to recognize that spoken words have a written form.
- Print has multiple forms and uses.
- Print is a means of communication.
- Print is organized in a specific and predictable way.
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. Such children also understand that the two are linked. They understand that 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. 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.
Print awareness skill development also helps children understand that print is organized in a specific way. For example:
- Letters are grouped to make words.
- Words are grouped to make sentences.
- Sentences are grouped to give information.
In addition, print awareness skills also include concepts such as:
- reading from left to right
- reading from the top of the page to the bottom
- under sweeping (finishing reading on the right and sweeping back to the left to start the next line)
- how books are held and navigated
How can print awareness skills be developed?
Print is an important element in building and strengthening a child’s print awareness skills. However, the ability to understand how print works does not happen automatically. Children need intentional activities to support the development of print awareness skills.
Concepts of print are developed through the deliberate and active intervention of parents, caregivers, and teachers who point out letters, words, and reading materials in the child’s environment. Parents, caregivers, and teachers 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 out authors and illustrators of a book
- demonstrating how print is organized from top to bottom and left to right by finger tracking
- encouraging children to explore the front of a book, and teaching how to identify the front cover 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
Picture Books That Can Help Develop Print Awareness Skills
Not all picture books are created equal and when it comes to teaching print awareness skills, it’s extra important to have a library. Fill that library with really good books that will help develop those print awareness skills.
Here are some of our favorites:
Engaging Activities to Develop Print Awareness
There are so many opportunities to teach your preschooler print awareness skills! You can, and should, add specific activities to your preschool literacy lesson plans, but some activities can be impromptu. You can even work on print awareness skills in the car, and definitely during bedtime stories.
For all my print awareness activities, see the link below.
And, try some of these activities:
What to Do if You’re Concerned
When a child enters kindergarten, he should have a firm grasp on most concepts of print. Preschoolers should master:
- how to hold a book
- identify the front of a book
- identify the back of a book
- where to start reading the story
Kindergartners should master being able to identify:
- a letter
- a word
- a sentence
- the end of a sentence (punctuation mark)
- a space
- the title of the book
- how many words are in this sentence
If you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician about developmental delays, or to a reading specialist in your school district about learning delays.
LEARN MORE ABOUT PRESCHOOL LITERACY INSTRUCTION
Here are some additional resources in learning about effective and comprehensive preschool literacy instruction. Just click on the list of titles below.
THE “BIG FOUR” OF PRESCHOOL LITERACY INSTRUCTION: PRINT AWARENESS (You are already here).
LOOKING FOR PRESCHOOL LITERACY LESSON PLANS?
The Preschool Literacy Lesson Plans Bundle by Stay At Home Educator includes each of the “big four” components in teaching preschoolers to read. Learn more about it by clicking the link below or clicking the image.
Find Even More Resources for Print Awareness
Sources for this article:
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
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction