Print Awareness to Develop Understanding of Reading Conventions
Print Awareness is knowing that print (words) has meaning, including noticing print around them in the environment (posters & street signs) and understanding how to handle the conventions for reading a book. We can often assume that all young children or pre-readers (as not always young children) will develop print awareness naturally. However, research suggests that 95% of their visual attention is directed towards pictures, which in themselves hold a great deal of meaning and often tell the story very effectively.
Pictures/ illustrations in story books and pure picture books are powerful ways to engage children and adults with books, storytelling and reading. This is not to say that pictures are any easy way to interpret a story line as they can hold a great deal of meaning, from simple obvious interpretation to more sophisticated symbolic representation.
Young children and pre-readers need opportunities to explore print and be helped to understand that the written word (print) has meaning. Once they start to see print they will begin to notice it everywhere not just in books but on posters, food packets, menus and street signs.
Again we can often assume that a child or pre-reader knows how to handle a book, however this is not always the case and can be due to a lack of experience with books or different cultural reading conventions. So it is important to check and teach these reading conventions for reading English:
- Front cover opens to the left and we read it from the front to the back.
- Print on a page is read left to right.
- Usually print is read from the top of the page across and down (this may differ slightly in some children’s books).
Supporting Print Awareness:
- Use takeaway menus or create your own as part of role playtime, they could have their own café serving up all sorts of interesting dishes for you. A blackboard can be very useful for this, allowing you or your child to write up their own menu for the day.
- Travel brochures or leaflets from your local tourist information office are great for role play encouraging new language as well as a different way to explore print as they often have maps and timetables.
- Use sticky labels or post it notes to label items or furniture as part of a ‘can you see or find’ game.
- Making lists of things to do or a shopping list. Their version of the list may be just squiggles and dots (so don’t rely on this for your shopping trip) but it is the beginning. I would keep the list and get them to tick off things done or items purchased as part of the experience so that it has a genuine purpose (children really like this).
- For slightly older children making simple invitations and thank you cards can be fun. Try not to make the messages too long or to write too many as they will get bored and see it as a chore not as fun.
- Making and drawing their own story book.
Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes
- Showing the printed words to songs and rhymes.
- Point out signs, logos and labels when out and about as well as at home.
- A lot of print awareness skills are developed through the sharing of books and appropriate on-line material.
Through Book Sharing
What books to choose?
- Books that have writing as part of the story;
- Books that have writing as part of the picture;
- Story books; all types;
- Factual (non-fiction) books; all types;
- Children’s magazines and newspapers.
Book Sharing Tips
- Remember babies will chew and bash the pages of the book as you read. This is normal and part of their learning experience so go with it.
- Encourage and let your child turn the pages.
- Point to the words of the title as you say them
- Explain what the author and illustrator do as you say their names.
- Point to words or repeated phrases as you say them or as your child says them. This will also help your child to develop the skill of reading from left to right and from the top of the page down (English).
- Point to words of interest and explain how words have spaces between them and why.
- To help your child understand how to handle a book use the word ‘front’ and ‘back’ of the book. If you are handed a book upside down or with the ‘back’ cover facing you explain that you have to turn it around or over so that you can read it.
- Explain that page numbers help you to find things in the book as well as to help make sure you do not miss any part of the story.
- Explain that content pages in story books show the chapters and in factual (non-fiction) they show different subject areas, as well as giving the page numbers on which to find them.
- Explain how the index page in non-fiction books work.
- Explain what a glossary is in a book.