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Concepts of Print - The Earliest Reading Skill

Concepts of print, sometimes called print awareness, is a person's understanding of how writing works. Without understanding these very basic concepts, one would not be able to read.

Imagine a child walking into a classroom who has never seen a book before. They might have no idea how to hold a book, where to start reading, or even that the jumble of confusing scribbles on the inside (yes, words) have meaning.

concepts of print example front cover of book

What are the concepts of print?

Directionality of text-

  • Text goes from left to right (in English) and top to bottom,
  • Books are read from front cover onwards

Mechanics-

  • knowing the difference between a letter and word
  • understanding that sentences are made up of words
  • recognizing that there are spaces between words in sentences
  • words are spelled the same each time
  • basic grasp of punctuation

Parts of a book -

  • knowing the location of the cover, back cover, spine, and title page are
  • understanding the role of an author and illustrator, and where we would find their names
  • recognizing text features such as titles, headlines, and table of contents

Alphabetic principle-

  • knowing that words are made up of letters, and that each letter has sound(s)
  • recognizing capital and lowercase letters
Diagram of concepts of print
Diagram of some concepts of print from the book The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

What's the best way to teach concepts of print?

Reading, reading, and more reading! The more you read, the more exposure your child has to the concepts of print.

If you're already reading aloud to your child, they have probably picked up a lot of concepts of print by now.

Questions that will build concepts of print while reading books:

  1. Notice where the front and back covers are before you read.
  2. Discuss where the names of the author and illustrators are and what their jobs are.
  3. Point to each word as you read, or for books with more words, follow under the words with your finger, sweeping from left to right and from top to bottom. (This motion reinforces directionality and is called a return sweep).
  4. Take a few moments to point out the text features of the book like the table of contents, illustrations, titles, and page numbers.
  5. Show them the difference between words and letters. One way is to count how many words are on a line? How do we know that?
  6. Make a point to show that the text holds the meaning. We aren't just making up words each time we read a book; we are saying the words on the page, and they share the author's message or story.

Ways to develop concepts of print without books:

Reading doesn't just happen when we open a book.

As adults we are reading constantly and automatically, everywhere we go: in the car, on our phones, reading mail, writing a note, food labels, advertisements, billboards etc.

There are many wonderful ways of noticing environmental print with your child such as:

  • counting the number of words on a billboard
  • noticing the first and last letters of items in the grocery store
  • pointing at words as your read them on a movie poster or on instructions for a new game
  • holding a birthday card correctly and showing them the cover, reading from left to right
  • counting the number of letters on their Spiderman toy
  • reading words on anything and talking about what the writer was trying to tell us (text has meaning)

Build Concepts of Print along with Reading Comprehension:

In my read aloud remastered checklist, I help you maximize that bedtime story. You're already reading it...why not make it even more valuable by asking the right questions?

Download the READ ALOUD CHECKLIST and pick one category of questions to focus on each night to skyrocket reading comprehension.

One mom said, "I know reading is important, but I didn't really know which questions to ask. What are kids even supposed to know?"

read aloud checklist includes concepts of print

The checklist focuses on all the questions you should be asking your 4-6 year old during reading and includes concepts of print! So don't wait to grab it. Right now, I'm including a bonus cheat sheet at the end of the 2 pages of questions.

Once your child has mastered a set of questions, check them right off and focus on something else! I LOVE CHECKLISTS.

June 17, 2022
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