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 http://mason.gmu.edu/~cwallac7/TAP/TEST/literacy/1.html. 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 http://mason.gmu.edu/~cwallac7/TAP/TEST/literacy/1.html
Tompkins, G.E. (2010). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (5th ed.). Boston, MA:
Pearson Education, Inc.