Print awareness is one of the Big Six early literacy skills and one of a child's earliest introductions to literacy. A child with print awareness understands that print has different functions depending on the context in which it appears.
For example, books tell stories, a menu lists food choices, and a sign can tell you where your favorite restaurant is or how fast you are allowed to drive.
A child with print awareness will hold a book the correct way. He realizes that print is organized in a certain way - read from left to right and top to bottom. A child with print awareness also recognizes that words are made up of letters and that there are spaces between the words.
How do you help your child develop print awareness?
- Point out environmental print such as signs so your child realizes that print is all around them.
- Point to some words as you say them especially in books with repeating words or phrases.
- Let your child turn the pages.
- Occasionally run your finger along the bottom of words you are reading. This helps a child understand that you are reading text rather than just looking at pictures and that print runs from left to right and top to bottom.
- Encourage your child to use print. Help him make signs and write notes.
What are the best books to promote print awareness? All of them!
But when recommending books to help develop print awareness, Laura Vaccaro Seeger is my go-to author. Here are some of my favorite books that she has written:
This uncomplicated yet clever book is excellent for exploring the printed word. This book has strategically placed cutouts on every other page to let words peek through from one page to the next. You can read APE on one page then turn the page to see a great escAPE. It's a counting book that also emphasizes words within words making it an excellent choice for promoting print awareness. The text is large and the illustrations are bright and simple. This book is perfect for older toddlers.
"Lemons Are Not Red"
This is one of those simple yet inventive books that makes me say "Why didn't I think of that?" Seeger again uses cutouts but this time as an introduction to colors in this bedtime story. "Lemons are not red. Lemons are yellow, apples are red." And so the book progresses, displaying cutouts of various objects to say what color the object is NOT. Once the page is turned the cutout shows the object's correct color. At the end of the story, the moon is silver, the night is black and it's time to say good night. This book is great for promoting print awareness because the print is minimal but large enough to make it easy to point out repeating words like "are" and "not." Color names are also in all capital letter so they stand out.
"The Hidden Alphabet"
This book is truly a visual feast. Black lift-up flaps frame simple images of things such as birds, mice, a quotation mark and other everyday objects as works of art. Lift the flaps and the objects reveal themselves to be the notch in a K, the hole in an R, or the curve of an S. The letters are not always conventional in shape so some may argue that this is not a good book to teach the alphabet. My opinion is that it is excellent for promoting print awareness because children are challenged to find the letters (or letter shapes) that are hidden in pictures. The "Today" show recommended "The Hidden Alphabet" as a great book for gift giving, and the American Library Association chose it for a Notable Book award.
- Misty Teasdale is the Family Place coordinator for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. She lives in West Bellaire with her husband and 7-year-old daughter.