Children begin their journey into the world of literacy long before they step foot through the school gates and return home with their first “reader”. In fact, it is you, the parent, that is your child’s first teacher of reading. This does not mean becoming a Drill Sergeant and enforcing your 4 year old to write out lines or “drop and give you twenty” if they ‘read’ (sorry memorise) a flashcard incorrectly. But seriously, what does it mean to teach reading to a pre-school child?
What is print awareness?
Print awareness refers to a child’s understanding that written language had a direct relationship with oral language.
Children with strong print awareness skills understand that written language carries meaning.
Because of the way our world is structured, many children begin developing print awareness skills long before they enter school. Print is all around…menus, labels, lists, magazines, newspapers, billboards, books….so make the smart choice to give print a voice!
Make print ‘POP’ for your child by ‘pointing it out’:
(Greenberg and Weitzman, 2010)
- Place a beautifully decorated sign on your baby’s door that says their name.
- Mark their height on the wall and write their initials and the date
- Show them the sign and symbols for the male and female toilets at the shops
As your child grows, so too does their awareness of the world around them. They begin to notice things: letters, names, words, pictures, signs, symbols, numbers and logos are all being soaked up.
Your job is simply to pounce on these learning opportunities about the written word in your creature’s natural habitat….the playground!
Play makes an imprint
From the ages of 3-5, your child’s interest in role play or pretend play heightens and this a great platform for incorporating print into meaningful interactions.
Play offers children many valuable opportunities that contribute to their physical, social, emotional and intellectual learning. (www.education.vic.gov.au)
A sneak peek at our ‘PrintPLAY Activities’
So introducing (cue drumroll)…..PrintPLAY by Little Birdie Books! The super engaging activities for kids to enjoy and parents to feel good about in their day.
1. Print-rich cards
Every play-based activity is built around the theme of the books in our box. However, instead of aimlessly ‘playing shop’ or ‘doctors and nurses’, we have created print-rich cards that include a ‘play script’ incorporating pictures with words so that children can start understanding that print carries meaning.
2. Visuals, graphically designed
Our awesome graphic designer, Lieve Torbyns @sgtpurple, has created beautiful visuals to support your child in feeling a sense of achievement when they “read” the PrintPLAY cards. These visuals may be for turn taking games like ‘snap’, ‘memory’ or ‘Go Fish’ or for pretend play activities like ‘dress ups’, ‘treasure hunts’ or ‘cooking play’.
3. Kid-friendly writing tools
A whiteboard marker, chalk or crayons are provided for all relevant PrintPLAY activities to allow beginning writing including short words like names or symbols such as ticking, crossing and circling to start the writing process.
The Power of PrintPLAY
Playing with print in children’s natural environment is the most powerful way to introduce your child to the written word. Exposure to print through meaningful play activities motivates children to explore the written code. PrintPLAY allows your child to be an active participant in playing with words and they will certainly feel a sense of mastery with print through the use of the supporting visuals.
One of the most important cognitive achievements of early childhood is the ability to understand and use symbols (Kassow, 2006)
Early on, as young as 2, children start to develop environmental print awareness through the recognition of symbols. They start to ‘read’ by using a symbolic relationship using familiar contextual cues to deduce the meaning.
It is interesting to note that studies showed an early heavy reliance on picture/symbol cues up until the age of 5.
Whichever word was closest to the contextual clue (object, picture or symbol), is what is “read” by the child. So if the word ‘dog’ is placed next to a house, children will read the word dog as house. By age 5, children start to pay more attention to the actual print – font, size, shape and colour not just the picture. Fascinating!
Despite the lifelong benefits of PrintPLAY, your children will of course never remember: the hours you spent setting up shop by helping them price and label the items to sell; the efforts you went to in the kitchen to ensure they did NOT recognise the symbols of McDonalds or KFC; the fun you shared writing words in the sand together at the beach; or the Little Birdie Book Boxes you bought and shared together!
So don’t underestimate your bright, little spark….they see and hear everything! Help them understand what they are seeing in this world around them including the written word…print!
Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies,
Janice and Tania
- Danielle Kassow (2006). Environmental Print Awareness in Young Children, Table Research Institute, Volume 1, No3.
- State Government of Victoria, Australia (2017). Department of Education and Training, Early Childhood, http://www.education.vic.gov.au
- Weitzman, E. & Greenberg, J. (2010). ABC and Beyond: Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings. The Hanen Centre: Toronto