Monday, August 3, 2009

Pre-Reading Skills: Building Print Awareness

Recently I attended a free program on early literacy skills for 2 year olds put on by the Westerville Public Library. It was part of the American Library Association's "Every Child Ready to Read" program.

The program summarized 6 important pre-reading skills for you child to have. According to research, these are skills that your child must have in order to learn to read.

The skills were:

1.) Print Awareness: Noticing print, knowing how to handle a book and knowing how to follow the words on a page.
2.) Vocabulary: Knowing the name of things.
3.) Letter Knowledge: Knowing letters are different from each other, knowing their names and sounds and recognizing letters everywhere.
4.) Phonological Awareness: Being able to hear and play with the smaller so
unds in words.
5.) Print Motivation: Being interested in and enjoying books.
6.) Narrative Skills: Being able to describe things and events and tell stories.

I would like to talk about the first of these skills Print Awareness. Print Awareness includes learning that writing in English follows basic rules such as flowing from top-to-bottom and left-to-right, and that the print on the page is what is being read by someone who knows how to read. (In other words, a child knowing that you are reading the words on the page and not just describing the pictures.) Print Awareness also includes knowing how to handle a book. For example, knowing which way to hold a book and knowing how to turn the pages.

There are several obvious methods to building Print Awareness. The first is taking advantage of read-aloud time.

When reading aloud to your child:
  • Occasionally use your finger to point to the words that you are reading. (Don't over do this because it can get annoying!),
  • Ask your child to turn the pages when you finish reading all of the words on the page, and
  • Ask your child to help you hunt for a specific letter
Here are some other fun ideas on teaching Print Awareness:

Let your child be the teacher: Children love correcting adults when they do something wrong. Amber over at Because Babies Grow Up suggests this lovely idea to help teach Print Awareness:
"Hold the book upside down and begin to read. It's so fun to see little ones flip out because it's not right! Look for them to turn the books right-side up when they are exploring books on their own. "
Make your own books: If your child is the crafty type, they may enjoy making their own books. The Grand County Library District made this suggestion:
"If your story time includes craft time, make books with children about topics of interest to them (such as dinosaurs, trucks, or birds). It may take several weeks, but if your group is fairly consistent, the process of making a book will help children learn the parts of the book and how a book works in English (the story goes from front to back, the writing goes from left to right, and title goes on the front cover)."

Song Boards:
Denise at
Explorations, came up with an excellent idea of building Print Awareness. She uses song boards with her girls. Be sure to visit her blog for some great ideas!
"I introduce each song and sing it to the children while using a pointer to follow the print. We reread the chart several times over the course of several days or weeks. As we read and reread the songs, the girls gain valuable insights into how print works. They learn that printed words match spoken words, that print is read left to right and top to bottom, and they gain knowledge of letters and sounds. Most importantly, we have fun reading together!"
"No Cooties Allowed!": Joint writing is a great way to promote Print Awareness. Let your child dictate an email to Grandma. Or, help your child to make homemade signs to hang on their door. (Example: No Boys Allowed!) Teach them that print is a very strong way to tell people what you want.

I would love to see your comments. Please share with me your favorite methods of teaching print awareness. Also, if you have any great book recommendations that
help teach Print Awareness please share those too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link! I love that your library did the same program! I like the idea of making books together. I've been saving random cardboard from cereal boxes and such. This would be the perfect project for that! I'm also going to try the song board. My oldest loves to sing songs so this would be a natural tie in for her.

Thanks for such great ideas!

Rachel said...

One of my favorite things to do to promote print awareness is to write things that your kids say down! This follows the song board idea, in a way. For example, you might ask your kids to tell you about a picture that they have drawn or painted. Ask if you can write thier words down. If they say yes, then you can label their work! "This is a tree and a garden" or "that's me!". Later, you can pull out their art and read word-for-word what they told you to write! This teaches kids that words have meaning, but also that their words are important! Or, I love to ask open-ended questions in a group or individually and write the response of each child, so they can watch you write it down--again, reading their words back to them. My favorite is when you do surveys and things, especially about other people. For mother's day and father's day every year, we'd ask the kids questions about their parents and would get really funny answers. "What is your mommy's favorite food?" --"spaghetti-o's!" or "what does your daddy like to watch on tv? --"cops!" etc. ;)


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