Print awareness consists of knowledge about written language, including:
- Understanding that writing conveys messages that can also be spoken;
- Understanding that text communicates information;
- Knowing how to hold a book, where to find information such as the title and the author, and which direction text should be read;
- Understanding certain written conventions, such as: words are separated by spaces; question marks identify questions; quotation marks identify someone speaking, etc.
Before a student can begin to read, they must develop these print awareness skills. While some students may develop print awareness implicitly through exposure to books at home, educators should use explicit instruction to ensure all students develop these prerequisite skills for reading development.
Teaching Print Awareness
The Canadian Language & Literacy Research Network created the resource Foundations for Literacy: An Evidence-Based Toolkit for the Effective Reading and Writing Teacher, which contains detailed information about teaching print awareness. The table on page 37 describes some explicit instructional practices recommended for developing print awareness skills. Click here to access this document.
For more strategies for teaching print awareness, click here to access the Reading Rockets webpage Print Awareness: Guidelines for Instruction.
A read-aloud is an instructional activity in which an educator reads a carefully-selected book to the students, and involves them in asking questions, making predictions, defining vocabulary, and exploring various reading strategies. This is a great instructional strategy for teaching print awareness.
During a read-aloud, students should be actively engaged rather than passively listening to the story. Furthermore, they should be engaged in targeted strategy development activities with careful modeling from the educator. Read-aloud activities can be repeated using the same book multiple times to help students focus on consolidating their strategy development.
The PDF document below offers practical guidance on how to lead an interactive read-aloud, which can be adapted to suit any primary grade-level.
The video clip below provides an overview of Read-Alouds and considerations for students with LDs.
For more information about effective read-alouds, click here to access the Reading Rockets webpage Repeated Interactive Read-Alouds in Preschool and Kindergarten.
Assessing Print Awareness
Educators should continually observe their students to assess their development of print awareness skills. The observation sheet below provides specific behaviours to look out for. Be sure to date observations and assessments for your own planning and for conversations with the school team and caregivers.
If a student does not appear to have a good foundation of print awareness skills by Grade 1, not only is remediation needed, but this is also a cue to watch for other possible delays in learning to read. If students are not displaying grade level literacy behaviours, it may be advisable that they have their hearing and vision tested. It is important that these faculties be tested before recommending a psychoeducational assessment.