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How to Develop Print Awareness

open book with stars

What Is Print Awareness?

A child who has print awareness understands that print represents words that have meaning and are related to spoken language.

Kids who have print awareness are able to do things like hold a book correctly and understand that books are read from front to back. They also realize that sentences are read from left to right.

Print awareness is one of five critical pre-reading skills. Without print awareness, children are unable to develop other literacy skills such as reading, spelling, and handwriting.

How Print Awareness Develops

Kids who are read to on a regular basis naturally pick up many of the skills by following the examples of the people around them.

A child’s print awareness develops when those close to him point out letters and words in text found in the child’s environment. It also develops through playing word games, when you turn the pages of a book, and when you run your finger under a line of text as you read.

Quick Check for Print Awareness

Here are five signs that indicate that your child has print awareness.

Print awareness blue check mark

Your child knows how to hold a book correctly. If you hand your child a book upside down, he will turn it right side up before looking through it.

Print awareness purple check mark

Your child understands that books are read from front to back and from left to right and knows how to turn the pages in the correct direction.

Print awareness green check mark

Your child pretends to write by scribbling or writing marks on paper. He understands that the “words” he is writing communicate meaning.

Print awareness blue check mark

Your child points to text and asks what it says. He has become curious about the meaning of the printed text he sees all around him.

Print awareness purple check mark

Your child picks up a familiar book and “reads” it aloud. He understands that the printed words are connected to the story.

5 Fun Ways to Develop Print Awareness

The best way to develop print awareness is through a variety of print-rich experiences. Here are five engaging activities to enjoy with your child.

Print awareness ABC graphic

Teach the Alphabet

Teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet through the activities in this blog post. You’ll find ABC Playdough Mats, ABC Bracelets, Tactile Letter Cards, and more.

Print awareness writing in a book

Tell a Story

Have your child tell you a story. If your child needs a prompt, wordless picture books are great for this! Write it down on paper for her to illustrate.

green sign for a child's room

Make a Sign

Help your child create signs for the doors in the house, such as “Welcome to Lexi’s room,” “Bathroom,” “Mom and Dad’s Room,” or “The Kitchen Is Open.”

envelop and letter

Read the Mail

When the mail is delivered each day, have your child help you sort it according to which family member’s name is on the label. If interesting cards, ads, or magazines arrive, read parts of them aloud.

mother reading to child

Read Aloud

Read lots of picture books aloud to your child. Read reviews of fantastic picture books to share together, or download our extensive list. As you read to your child:

  • Mention the parts of a book as you read. “Look at this cover! This book must be about elephants!” “The End…that’s the last page of the book.”
  • Have your child help you turn the pages.
  • Model that we read from left to right by occasionally running your finger under the text as you read.
  • Ask your child to point to the first word on the page.
  • Occasionally point out periods and exclamation points.

Print Awareness Is One of the Big Five Skills

Print awareness is one of the five critical skills for reading readiness that we call the “Big Five Skills.” The other four skills are:

If you’re ready to tackle the rest of the Big Five Skills, be sure to check out the All About Reading Pre-reading program. Your student will enjoy special games, crafts, and story time read-alouds, and you will love the way your student effortlessly learns essential pre-reading skills.

All About Reading Pre-reading

Do you have any questions about print awareness? Post in the comments below!

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Niki H. Blake

says:

Love this so much!! People don’t realize how important print awareness is!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you enjoyed this, Niki!

Christina Gould

says:

This is very informative. I did not know about print awareness. Thanks for posting!

Quaynaya Bey Jean-Baptiste

says:

Loved the article! Before I even read to my child I start to mention the parts of the book front cover, spine, back of the book and that we read from left to right.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Such a great way to approach reading to a child, Quaynaya! Thanks for sharing.

Abbey Meraz

says:

Great information and great ideas to develop print awareness. I love your program and what you do to help us teach our children.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased to hear the program is working out so well for you, Abbey!

Paul Miron

says:

I realize we did most of the things mentioned in this article, without being aware what they were, to the point that my son would listen to a story on a CD while lokking at the pages of the book, turning the pages exactly where the CD audio version was at.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sounds like a wonderful way to develop print awareness, Paul!

Anu Abraham

says:

Thank you for the incredibly informative posts.

Sara Scoggan

says:

Nice post…I always like to announce the author and illustrator before I read a book. My 2-yesr-old daughter pretended to read a book and made up names for the author and illustrator, too!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That sounds so cute, Sara!

I always announce the author and illustrator too when I read aloud. I like to think it shows that writing and illustrating are worthwhile pursuits!

Lauren Ashley

says:

Thanks for this informative post! We’ve loved using All About Reading this last year while homeschooling my son for kindergarten, and I’m looking forward to continuing with him this coming year. As well as introducing it to my 4-year-old daughter!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It’s great to hear that All About Reading has been working out well for your son, Lauren!

Elizabeth Horton

says:

This is great for prepping kids for kinder

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes, this is one of the The Top 5 Reading Readiness Skills for success in learning to read.

Sherry

says:

My son is severely dyslexic but in the pre-reading stage he had great print awareness because of all the stories I read to him. In my teaching career, I’ve seen K kids who, even after been modeled multiple times, still haven’t figured out which way a book goes. Which goes to show that their exposure to books was non-existent before coming to K. Starting from so far behind makes it so, so hard for them reach their potential!.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing this, Sherry.

Kim

says:

Such important info that is often overlooked for the prek age. Learning to read starts way before introduction of phonics.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, so true, Kim!

Anna G

says:

Great suggestions! Love it!

Lauren

says:

I never thought about the mail before. That’s a cool idea to try.

Jess Tomlin

says:

Love all the suggestions and additional information given.

Jerolyn

says:

I am so thankful for the many informative and educationally sound articles that are continually written and made available by the AAR staff. These articles are a tremendous resource and help in teaching our children to read and troubleshoot problems. Thank you!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Jerolyn! It’s wonderful to hear that these articles and resources are helpful.

Morgan

says:

Great ideas!

Mary Nieber

says:

I love the usage of real life examples with mail and creating signs. I’ve found my toddler and preschooler are both eager to know what something says no matter what they find letters and words on (signs, cereal boxes, etc.).

Laura

says:

Love the idea about the mail!

T Gayes

says:

Thanks for this helpful info!

Wendy

says:

Thank you for the great tips! My children also love acting out stories- I think this has definitely sparked their love for “reading”/listening to books! Looking forward to learning more about your program.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wendy,
A great place to start with learning more about our programs is our overview video, Why Our Programs Work (you may need to scroll just a bit to see the video). Let me know if you have specific questions.

Rachel

says:

Thank you for some valuable information about Print Awareness

Andrea

says:

Great information!

Amber

says:

This is a great quick list reminding caregivers to invite children to interact with the books or print being shared.

Sarah Disosway

says:

Good tips 👌🏼

Amy W

says:

Thank you for the great insights.

Amy

says:

Thank you for all the resources All About Spelling has been amazing for my son!

Brittany

says:

Great tips. Thanks!

Elizabeth Barhorst

says:

This was helpful, I love the practical examples! All about Reading has been the perfect program for us!! My 5 yr old is ready and I am so proud!

Allison

says:

This is so helpful, we’ve tried so many reading programs & all about reading is the best fit for us!

Mary

says:

Reading aloud has just so many positive results!