Understanding that printed words have meaning is an important reading skill. This skill is called "print awareness." Print awareness is when a child realizes, "I see letters!" and then "I see words!" when looking around his or her world.
Some important print awareness skills are:
- print provides the reader with information
- print is read from left to right
- print is read from top to bottom
- letters are used to form words
- spaces appear between words
- words are on paper, in books and on many things in our everyday environment (like signs and menus)
Here is a video that helps explain print awareness:
To help your child learn about print awareness...read to them. (of course!) But there are other ways to help them learn print awareness. You are probably already teaching your child print awareness and you don't even know it. Here are some ideas:
- Draw attention to environmental print (posters, signs, labels)
- Try to label object in your child's play area (shelf, chair, computer, table, door, etc.)
- Explain and demonstrate how print works on the written page (title page, cover page, reading from left to right etc.)
- Bring in age-appropriate magazines and set out newspapers. Even though they may not be able to read the words yet, preschool children love to explore the pictures and by sharing these “grown-up” materials they learn that text and pictures provide information.
- Include real objects that use words into a child’s play. Use real menus and have writing pads to “take orders” when playing restaurant.
- Put a phone book in their playhouse.
- Bring in your junk mail, expired coupons, or old business cards for dramatic play.
- Signs, empty food containers with labels, tickets, and play money are all ways children can play with environmental print.
- Did you know that computers can help build print awareness too? Think about the information that you get daily from a computer or tablet and make a point of highlighting it to your preschooler. Look up the weather forecast, movie times, or a piece of news.
- One way to reinforce the fact that we get information from books is to read a nonfiction book. Choose a subject that is interesting to your child or class and find an age-appropriate nonfiction book about it or you can look for books to connect with an experience such as a trip to the zoo or the changing seasons.
- More ideas on the Pinterest Ready to Read Board: Practice - Reading & Letters
- Watching you use Apps for these things is OK too!
- Reading Rockets: Print Awareness
- Idaho Commission for Libraries: Print Awareness
- The Literacy Connection: Print Awareness
- Children's Learning Institute: Book and Print Awareness Checklist
- GoodReads: Print Awareness Books