Learning how print works

The home literacy environment is a well-established predictor of children’s language and literacy development (Frijters, Barron, & Brunello, 2000; Levy, Gong, Hessels, Evans, & Jared, 2006; Senechal & Lefevre, 2002). 

What IS the “home literacy environment” (HLE)? In research, this usually refers to activities by family members at home that relate to literacy learning as well as the literacy resources in the home and parental attitudes toward literacy. 


HLE comprises both formal and informal activities, including parents reading to children, directing children’s attention to environmental print, and teaching letter names and sounds:  all activities  that are thought to promote oral language skills and comprehension (Puglisi et al., 2017).

One of the EASIEST home literacy experiences you can share with your child is to direct their attention to print in the environment, such as advertisements or street names. Understanding how print works, known as print knowledge or print concepts, provides children with a very important foundation for learning to read and write. Children learn about print when they observe and interact with adults who use print in meaningful situations throughout the day.

Here are some print concepts children typically develop prior to starting school:

Print is meaningful:

  • Print represents spoken language
  • Print communicates a message or tells a story

Books are used in a specific way:

  • They are held right side up
  • They are read from front to back
  • They have a beginning and an end
  • They have a title, an author and an illustrator

Print is read in a specific way:

  • From the top to the bottom of the page
  • From the left to the right of the page
  • From the end of one line to the beginning of the next line

Print includes letters, spaces, wrods and punctuation marks:

  • Letters of the alpahbet make up words
  • Letters have names
  • Letters have both upper and lower case forms
  • Spaces separate words
  • Words make up sentences
  • There are rules for how letters make up words
  • Punctuation marks have meaning

Just being exposed to the printed word is not enough for children to develop print knowledge. If children are to learn that it’s the print, not the illustrations, that tells a story or that letters of the alphabet have names, then adults must draw their attention to how print functions.

Point Out Print (Greenberg, J. & Weitzman, E., 2014) is one of our favourite strategies that helps children acquire print knowledge during book reading and many other daily activities that include print. When you point out print, your child’s awareness of print increases and they start to talk about and experiment with the letters and words they see.

We’ve created a FREEBIE Bingo board with suggestions of how you can POP with everyday objects. Download, print and stick it on your fridge, or on your bookshelf to prompt you to POP in your everyday interactions with your child.

We’d love to hear and see how you POP in your home! Tag us in your photos @littlebirdiebooks with #pointoutprint

Until next time,

Janice & Tania


Greenberg, J. & Weitzman, E. (2014). I’m Ready! How to Prepare Your Child for Reading Success. Toronto: Hanen Early Language Program.

Puglisi,M.L., Hulme, C., Hamilton, L.G., & Snowling, M. J. (2017). The Home Literacy Environment Is a Correlate, but Perhaps Not a Cause, of Variations in Children’s Language and Literacy Development, Scientific Studies of Reading, 21:6, 498-514, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2017.1346660

Snow, P. C. (2020). SOLAR: The Science of Language and Reading. Child Language Teaching and Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265659020947817