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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!

print awareness pinterest graphic
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Leave a Comment

Emilee Alcantara

says:

Great tips!

Ashley

says:

Thank you for the tips!

Cristen Woolston

says:

Thank you for sharing the importance of print awareness. My daughter used to make up stories by following along with the pictures. It wasn’t until she developed better print awareness, that she understood the importance of learning the letters and their sounds.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cristen,
Thank you for sharing an example of how a child can enjoy books and still not have good print awareness. I’m sure this will be helpful to others.

gloria

says:

Thank you

Vicki

says:

Reading the mail is a great one! I’ve even asked family to send letters addressed to her so that she can see her name!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Vicki,
My kids loved to get mail! Having a family member willing to write your little one regularly is great.

Angie

says:

Great tips!

Catherine

says:

So glad I read this. I am going to be intentional and include these activities when we read books. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Catherine,
We’re happy to hear this will be helpful and allow you to be more intentional. Thank you.

Cynthia Hochstetler

says:

AAR and AAS are helping my Dyslexic son.

Neisha

says:

My youngest is 2 and loves books. This is good to know as she grows. She loves being “read to” although many times that means paraphrasing the sentences or even just describing the pictures.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Neisha,
I remember those sweet days!

You might find our many Picture Book Reviews helpful in choosing reading materials. Each includes a printable list to take to the library.

Vanessa Wainwright

says:

Great tips! My twins are almost 4 and love reading! They actually exhibit most of these traits. My daughter is eager to learn reading, and constantly brings books asking what the letters say. It’s exciting!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Vanessa,
Yes! It is very exciting when you see the love of learning bloom in your children!

Helen

says:

Love these hints! My daughter loves to make little books of scribbles, with a few words like her name thrown in. Love to see her progress, and I really think Ziggy the Zebra is helping with it :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Helen,
I love that stage when they “write” pages and pages of scribbles. It shows so clearly that they understand the concept of the written word. Plus, it’s so cute!

Karianne

says:

This is super helpful! Thank you!

Sherri

says:

Interested in this learning program.

Christy Faust

says:

Thank you for all the good information.

Kathy

says:

I’m enjoying my grandchildren and their developing print awareness! I have been significantly impacted as I have learned about Orton-Gillingham and it is delightful to take some of that awareness with me as I spend time with my grandchildren.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kathy,
How wonderful you can help prepare your grandchildren for reading!

Kira

says:

I had never heard of print awareness. I just figured it was a natural step in understanding or copying when being read to. I love when I find out things like this that let me know my daughter is on track and doing things correctly!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kira,
Print awareness is something that is naturally learned for many children, but it is important to know about these sorts of Reading Readiness Skills to ensure your little is on track for reading success.

Roxy

says:

I always try to track the print with my finger when I read aloud to pre readers. That has been very helpful for my sons.

Charlotte

says:

Thanks for this helpful post!

Alison

says:

Great information, thanks!

lori

says:

Thanks for this information!

ko

says:

The 5 fun ways to develop print awareness were helpful.

Jennifer Archibald

says:

Thanks! Many of these come naturally.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
Yes, for many children these skills can come naturally. However, there are some that need to be explicitly taught these things in order to understand them.

Andrea

says:

Thanks for the tips!

Lucinda Dugger

says:

Great ideas. I do many of these with my 4 year old and I see how quickly she’s picking up the alphabet and understanding basic reading skills.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lucinda,
It’s great that your little one is picking up these reading readiness skills quickly!

Stacy

says:

Great information! Thanks!

Julia

says:

Great ideas for my 5 year old!

Learned about this curriculum through Cathy Duffy top 102 home-school curriculum. Really like what I’m seeing and want to discover more for my 3 year old.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deborah,
Do you have any specific questions? You can see samples of All About Reading here, and this blog post has a video of a lesson from level 1 so you can see it in action (it’s near the bottom of the blog post).

Amy

says:

We love AAR and AAS!! Working on teaching my third child to read with AAR and it is amazing to watch his excitement as things start to click. So thankful for this program!

Mary

says:

All About Reading and Spelling has been very helpful for my dyslexic son.

Maggie L

says:

Great ideas thank you!

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