What are Concepts of Print?

African-american mom reading to her son.

Concepts of Print is the understanding of how a book works. It is very important to start pre-literate activities at an early age. Literacy activities will help children develop a basic understanding of how books work. The basics include...

  • knowing how to hold a book the right way

  • turning pages from left to right

  • tell the differences between the print and pictures

  • be able to tell the front of the book from the back of the book
  • Children have to know these basic concepts of print before they can move on to more complex details of print.

    When learning about the more complex details children will learn that...

  • reading starts at the top of the page to the bottom of the page

  • we read from the left to right

  • then return to the next line reading left to right down the page.

  • the difference between letters and words

  • 1 to 1 matching which means that they match saying one word for every one word they see.
  • Finally, they will learn punctuation marks in text. Parents, family members and caregivers can teach these concepts by providing literacy experiences that will be discussed here.

    It is imperative to teach these things to children at an early age. If children enter Kindergarten without knowing basic information about books, they will be at a serious disadvantage. To help parents understand how to teach these skills I have included examples of things I have done with my own daughter.

    I began by reading to my child while she was literally in the womb. I continued this after she was born. She loved this time so she sat quietly and listened. It was and still is a great time of bonding for us. By the time she was 6 months old, she knew how a book worked. She had the beginning concepts of print under control without lapses. I was able to teach her these basic concepts of print through...

  • reading to her

  • by pointing things out to her like expressions on the character's face (Ex. She looks happy, because she thinks it's fun to do that. Sometimes the story does not express what the character's faces show.)

  • talked about the picture on the front describing to her what I thought would take place in the story

  • I read the title of the book to her

  • As I read to her I pointed to the words so that she knew the story that I was reading came from the print not the picture.

  • let her have her own time to sit and look at the books, magazines or flyers from the mail (really anything that had print)
  • When she was just a year old, she would sit with the books and babble like she was telling the story. She would even say a word or two like “rabbit” or “rabbit play” (There was a rabbit in the picture.) that let me know she knew the story was about the picture (She was already understanding books have a story and meaning to them.), but at the same time she was pointing to the print. So, I knew that she understood the print contained the message. She became so comfortable with books, because I gave her time to explore them when we went to restaurants or the grocery store she would try to pick up magazines or menus to try to read them. From my own experience with my daughter, teaching lots of children to read, and my training as a Reading Specialist, I know that it is important to demonstrate and model for children through reading to them, but it is equally important to give them time to explore books themselves.

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    Once you have given your child a rich literacy experience with books and they understand the basic concepts of print, you will want to start expanding their knowledge about books.

    1. Read the title of the book.

    2. Talk about the picture on the front cover and ask them what they think the story will be about. If they do not have the vocabulary to talk about what they think will happen, you should talk to them about what you think will happen. They will gain vocabulary which will help them become more verbal and building their vocabulary will help them with reading later.

    3. Ask them where do I start reading. Let them point it out for you. They should point to the print.(print versus picture)

    4. If you have started teaching your child some letters, ask them “Can you find C on this page?” (Have them find whatever letter you are working on?) This will help them to know that we use letters for printing messages.

    The more complex concepts of print such as 1 to 1 matching usually will not be taught until children are starting to read beginning reader books (level 1 books; But make sure you understand how to choose a good level 1 book before buying books for them to read independently. See Leveled Books) If you would like to teach your child one to one matching before they start reading so that they have a good understanding, then click on one to one matching to get a wonderful, easy-to-teach activity for this skill.

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