Print Concepts: What They Are and How to Teach Print Awareness at Home

Print concepts, also known as print awareness or concepts of print, are foundational to literacy development. Without these essential early literacy skills, children will struggle to successfully read and write on their own. Thus, teaching these concepts is necessary in both the classroom and at home!

In this article, we will explain what concepts of print are, why they’re important, and how you can assess your child’s understanding of print concepts. Plus, we’ll share tips on how parents can teach these concepts at home, including fun print awareness activities and games!

Ready to learn all about print concepts and how you can help your child develop these critical early literacy skills? Let’s go!

What is print awareness?

First things first - what is print awareness? Before we get into the specifics, let’s delve into the meaning of this term. Here’s a simple definition.

Print Concepts Definition

Print concepts refer to a child’s ability to recognize and understand how written language is organized and used. Understanding print concepts is essential for literacy development, spelling, and writing. In fact, print awareness is a top reading readiness skill.

But exactly what are concepts of print? Below are some specific elements and examples that will clarify this definition.

Elements of Print Awareness

Print concepts, or the elements of print awareness, include understanding that:

  • Books contain letters and words.
  • Letters make up words, and words make up sentences.
  • Spaces separate words.
  • Words and sentences have meaning.
  • Books are read from front to back.
  • Pages are read from top to bottom.
  • English words are read from left to right.
  • Print has different purposes (e.g., to tell a story, to share information, etc.).

Print Awareness Examples

What do these elements look like in practice?  Here are some examples of how a child might demonstrate print concepts.

  • Pointing out print or words in the environment.
  • Explaining what a particular form of print is used for (e.g., books are used to tell stories, menus are used to share information).
  • Identifying individual words in a story.
  • Picking out individual letters in words.
  • Following along with the words on a page from left to right using their finger.
  • Identifying the top and bottom of a page.

Now that you understand what concepts of print are and how a child might demonstrate these concepts, let’s explore why these skills are important.

Why is print awareness important?

Print awareness is critical for the development of reading and comprehension skills. Without understanding print concepts, children will struggle with both reading and writing. Thus, it is an extremely important skill for children to learn.

Not sure if your child understands print concepts? Here’s how you can tell.

Concepts of Print Assessment - Evaluate Your Child’s Print Awareness Skills at Home

Before your child can read and write independently, they must develop basic early literacy skills - including print concepts. Therefore, assessing your child’s understanding of these concepts will help you determine if there are any skills they need to grasp to support their literacy development.

The concepts of print assessment below will help you discern whether your child has print awareness.

Print Concepts Checklist

If your child demonstrates all of the skills below, they have mastered print concepts. If not, don’t worry - we’ve included tips for teaching concepts of print at home, including fun games and activities.

  • My child holds books the right way up.
  • My child reads (or follows along with) English words from top to bottom and left to right.
  • My child can identify individual letters within words.
  • My child can identify single words in a sentence.
  • My child leaves spaces between each word when practicing their writing.
  • My child flips the pages of a traditional book from right to left.
  • My child understands that books are read from front to back.
  • My child points out words in their environment and asks what they say/mean.

By using this checklist, you’ll gain a better understanding of your child’s print awareness and any concepts they still need to learn.

It is important to note that these skills do not develop overnight! Children gain some understanding of print concepts as they engage with the world around them. However, providing them with opportunities to develop these skills is also essential. So, be sure to try some of the fun and educational games and activities below.

Teaching Print Concepts at Home

Wondering how parents can promote print awareness at home? 

Reading aloud is one of the best ways to teach print concepts at home. That’s because reading aloud allows you to demonstrate the concepts of print. For example, you can point at individual words as you read them, show that you’re reading from left to right by tracking the words with your finger, etc.

DID YOU KNOW - digital read aloud books can also help teach print concepts? So, if you don’t have time to read to your child every night, have no fear - read alongs can help! Learn more about read along books, their benefits, and the best read aloud books in our Ultimate Guide to Read Along Books for Kids.

In addition to reading aloud, there are many other ways to teach print concepts. Below, we’ve provided five more fun (and effective) ways for parents to promote these skills at home.

A child follows words from top to bottom and left to right on a page, demonstrating print awareness

5 Fun Print Awareness Activities and Games

As parents ourselves, we can tell you that these print awareness activities are not only exciting for children but fun for adults, too. So, if you want to promote concepts of print at home, try these activities and games!

1. Letter and Number Sort

Cut out letters and numbers and mix them together. Then, have your child sort the letters into one pile and the numbers into another. 

If your child is more advanced, you can enhance this activity by having them combine letters to make words. To take it a step further, discuss the letters that make up each word. For example, talk about the sound each letter makes, other words that start with that letter, etc.

Targeted Print Concepts: ability to identify letters, understanding that letters make up words

2. Sentence Scramble

Take a sentence from a book you are reading, write it out, and cut it into individual words. Then, scramble the words and have your child put them back together in the correct order. This will help your child understand that written words make up sentences that have meaning.

Targeted Concepts of Print: understanding that words make up sentences, understanding that spaces separate words, understanding that words and sentences have meaning, understanding that words are read from top to bottom, understanding that English words are read from left to right

3. Secret Message

Write your child a secret message, omitting some letters and words throughout. By omitting letters, your child will see that the word's meaning changes when letters are removed - perhaps the word no longer makes sense! Similarly, by omitting words, you can demonstrate how the meaning of a sentence changes when words are removed. Thus, this game helps children understand that letters are used to create words, and words are used to form sentences. 

Targeted Print Concepts: understanding that letters make up words, understanding that words make up sentences, understanding that words and sentences have meaning, understanding that words are read from top to bottom, understanding that English words are read from left to right

4. Words of the World

With your child, point out words that you encounter during daily activities. This could be words on a cereal box, billboard, etc. Words are all around us!

Targeted Concepts of Print: ability to identify words, understanding that words have meaning

5. Draw and Share

Have your child draw a picture and explain the story behind it. As they share, record their words. Then, read the story they created aloud together.

Targeted Print Concepts: understanding that words make up sentences, understanding that spaces separate words, understanding that words and sentences have meaning, understanding that pages are read from top to bottom, understanding that English words are read from left to right, understanding that different print has different purposes

The Easiest Way to Promote Print Concepts at Home? Reading Apps for Kids

Technology is a great way to support early literacy skills, including print awareness. In fact, studies have shown that in addition to supporting a child’s development of print concepts and phonological awareness, ebooks also support vocabulary development, spelling development, and reading comprehension skills.

So, if you’re looking for a fun, interactive, and inexpensive tool to help you promote concepts of print, check out reading apps for kids like Booka!

With hundreds of books, including read alouds with professional narration, Booka is one of the very best tools to help you promote print awareness at home.

Want to give Booka a try? Download the app today and get 7 days of FREE reading!

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