Reading and literacy are some of the most fundamental skills you can instill in a child.

It is crucial for their comprehensive and cognitive development and will set them up for life. The ability to read and write has become a vastly important skill for everyone across all societal, educational, and career development fields. It’s now widely acknowledged as a crucial skill for everyone, starting with early childhood teachers.

If you’re an educator specific to early childhood development, then you will know how important learning to read is, and you should know that a fundamental part of that process is print awareness. Print awareness is, more often than not, a child’s earliest introduction to literacy. It tends to be the starting point that sets a child off, ready to learn more and continue to develop their reading skills.

Throughout this article, we will provide an extensive guide to understanding exactly what print awareness is and how a child can be introduced to it in the classroom.

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What print awareness is

To put it simply, print awareness is the understanding that print carries meaning. It’s also known as the concept of print and is essentially the starting point of understanding how print interacts to convey a message or something to read and learn. It can be explored more extensively by breaking it into categories of understanding which we have done below.

Print carries meaning

This is the generally agreed understanding that print has meaning and creates a text that can be read and understood. This also becomes more complex through later development as your students understand that understanding print as meaningful carries different ways of understanding too. It can carry direct, obvious meaning, meaning that is implicated or suggested, or meaning that can be inferred and interpreted. This is a skill they will be able to develop later but establishing print as a meaningful body that can offer insight and knowledge is an important starting point.

Print has different functions

Another key element of print awareness is understanding that print has different functions. This means that print styles vary and usually depend on their purpose. This can be an indicator of what the meaning behind the print is and can offer a more developed understanding. A few clear examples of this are as follows:

  • Menus list food choices
  • Books tell stories
  • Signs can draw your attention to something – advertise a restaurant or declare a warning

These are all print variations with different functions; their layout can indicate their meaning and vice versa.

Print is organized in a certain way

Understanding the organization of print is an essential part of understanding print awareness. Print is organized in a certain way, and this understanding of this helps a child learn how to read. For example, we know that print is read from left to right and starts at the top of the page to the bottom. This part of print awareness is crucial in improving your student’s knowledge of print, such as how print is organized. You make it easier for them to apply that knowledge to their reading skills.

The organization of print involves the understanding of word structure

The structure of words and the way they are placed together is a part of understanding print organization. It’s important to understand that words consist of letters that are placed together to make specific sounds. These words appear with spaces between them to make up sentences. It’s important to understand that some words in print look longer because they have more letters and that words are what convey meaning. This will also help when they learn to write as this part of print awareness will teach them that sentences start with capital letters, end with periods, and are written from left to right of a page and top to bottom. These print functions are essential for correct writing abilities in children.

Book handling

Another concept of print awareness that will significantly impact your student’s ability to read is book handling. Book handling is taught through print awareness and teaches them about the features of a book. This includes learning how to turn pages, find the top and bottom of a page, and identify the front and back cover of a book.

How do children learn print awareness?

Print is something that children will be aware of long before they enter school. However, thorough print awareness does not magically emerge unaided and without effort. Teachers need to implement these skills early with practical classroom activities for a substantial education. Some ways this can be done are listed below:

  • Include signs, labels, posters, etc., around your classroom – help them to see as much print as possible.
  • Encourage regular reading both in your classroom and at home.
  • Read aloud time and individual reading time.
  • Word games – For example, identify words’ meanings in messages; be the sentence (have your students be a letter each and work in groups to make varying sentences); create words using building blocks.
  • Reading for instruction – a later activity.

Print awareness is a crucial aspect of helping your students to gain the literacy skills that will help them to advance in their cognitive development in further education and life. This extensive guide should clearly indicate what print awareness is and why it is needed.