Saturday, September 25, 2010

Concepts About Print

          Concepts of print include the basic skills of reading such as how to hold a book, recognizing that words on the page have meaning, directionality, return sweep,  and being able to identify individual letters, words and punctuation.  These are all skills that need to be taught by modeling, scaffolding and opportunities for independent practice, such as at literacy centers.  One of the most important beginning reader skills is being able to identify the letters of the alphabet and their phoneme-grapheme associations.  "Children who have been actively involved in reading and writing activities before entering first grade know the names of the letters, and they're more likely to begin reading quickly" (Tompkins, 2010).  In Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach, Tompkins (2010) lists routines to teach the letters of the alphabet, all of which can be incorporated straight into literacy centers.
          The Unifed Transformative Early Education Model (UTEEM) students at George Mason University have compiled information for families of kindergarten through third-grade students about emergent literacy that can be found at  This is a great resource, as it explains concepts about print, as well as phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge, in a simple, comprehensible manner.  In addition, the website offers lists of engaging activities to improve literacy.  "Developing concepts about print in children at an early age is invaluable to their literacy development. Without a firm grasp on these concepts, children will have trouble learning to read and write" (Iantosca).  Concepts about print can be developed at a young age by exposing children to print.  Iantosca firmly statess that "the number one thing you can do for your children to help them learn concepts about print is to read to them everyday."
          The best way to teach concepts about print is in an authentic, meaningful manner.  For instance, a restaurant menu, arranged in short phrases, allows children to easily match one spoken word to each written word, and also relate concepts of print to real-life experiences.  When modeling concepts about print, teachers and families should be mindful of the reading materials they are selecting.  Print should include elaborate pictures and minimal text, and be of interest to the child.  Interest is a motivating factor in learning to read and taking the time to learn what topics children are interested in can yield great benefits.

Iantaosca, E. Emergent literacy: Concepts about print. In Literacy at home and school
          Retrieved from

Tompkins, G.E. (2010). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (5th ed.). Boston, MA:
          Pearson Education, Inc.


  1. Hey Christina, great site that you reference. I have an ESOL student whose parents sent me an email the other day asking how they can help at home. I'm going to condense the information and send it to them. I think there are a lot of parents, especially those who are just learning English themselves, who would like to help their children but they don't know how. I wonder if reading to a child in a foreign language helps improve their reading in English or if the reading has to be done in English?

  2. Hi Christina,

    Thank you for your post! I really enjoyed the article you referenced about the importance of teaching children print concepts at a young age. While I am not in a classroom, I have constructed several lesson plans for immersing first graders in print concepts. I wrote one in particular about text features: cover, title page, table of contents, illustration, caption, chapter divisions, and reference pages. I feel this helps students predict what will happen in the story and gives them a better sense of the sequence of events. I will have students make their own books using the text features we discussed, and then I will "publish" their work and put their finished work on a bulletin board for all to see. Here is a great site that offers a cheat sheet for parents that may make an excellent take home flier when starting a new reading unit.

  3. Hi Christina,
    I really liked your blog entry on concepts about print and how important it is to young children and their literacy development. Basic skills like how to hold a book, directionality, return sweep all have to be taught and learned. Parents can also play an active part by reading to their child everyday at home and exposing them to print. Lots of times I get parents asking me how can they help their child at home and I think this is a great way to get parents involved. Some tips that I tell my parents is, to allow the child to hold the book and turn the pages while the parents read, point to the words as they are reading it and to ask the child to retell the story in their own words. I think the George Mason University website that you cited is great! It offers lots of family activities that can be done at home.

  4. I really liked this topic since I know a number of children in the baby to toddler age range and learning about emergent literacy and the reading process has made me pay closer attention to how they interact with language and print. Knowing that some students enter school unaware of how to hold a book or distinguish words from pictures, it is exciting to see this progression of understanding in very young children when they are exposed to books and reading. Interested in how to encourage early literacy and print concepts in young children, I came across an article by Jonda McNair that evaluated the use of a child’s name in learning concepts about print and other literacy skills. Students tend to be very interested in their name and the letters in their name. McNair points out that this can be used to help students learn that spelling of words is constant since the spelling of their name does not change. Names can also be used to learn letters and as examples of letter-sound relationships. I particularly liked the suggestion the article gave of creating letter posters in your classroom and listing the children’s names and pictures under the appropriate letter.

    McNair, J.C. (2007). Say my name, say my name!. Young Children, 62 (5), 84-89.