“The cat is on the mat”
What seems like a no-brainer to us adults, is not quite so for children. Reading is no easy task for them. It involves working together with a set of complex skills from visual to auditory processing.
Reading this simple sentence, for example, requires your child to recognize letters, remember it’s sound, blend them together and understand what it means.
That is why it is essential to build on the fundamentals before jumping into reading sentences right away.
There are 5 essential skills needed in order for your child to be a fluent reader.
- Book & Print Awareness
- Alphabet Knowledge
- Phonological Awareness
This is the early reading stage which typically lasts from 0-6 years old. For this post, I will be showing you what you need to know and what you can do before you even begin teaching your child the alphabet.
Book & Print Awareness
Print awareness refers to the understanding that prints carry messages and can be read aloud. In simpler terms, this means that children need to know that these squiggly lines that we adults call letters and words can let them know how to make the sounds that have meanings. This is the first stage of learning to read.
- know the difference between words and non-words
- know that print is print, no matter what form it appears in (uppercase, lowercase, manuscript, cursive, different fonts, different colors, and sizes).
- know that print can appear by itself or with pictures.
- understand that print corresponds to speech, word for word.
- understand the purpose of the empty space between words (word boundaries).
- understand that words are read from left to right on a page.
- understand that lines of text are read from top to bottom on a page.
- can identify the front of a book and a page in it
(source: Phonics From A to Z- A Practical Guide by Wiley Blevins)
How to teach print awareness:
The list above may seem quite daunting but teaching print awareness is probably the easiest because there isn’t a need for much teaching.
It mainly requires exposure. By simply exposing them to books and the words you can find around them, they will naturally learn and grasp the concept of print awareness. You can even start as early as before they learn how to talk and walk.
However, the skill is not attained without adult intervention or a skilled partner like an older sibling. Interact often with them and playfully apply the following strategies.
1. Reading books
- Have reading aloud sessions together
- Go through the structure of a book (e.g. title, author, words, pictures, front and back of a book) before reading
- Read books with simple and predictable words
- Allow your child to pretend reading on his own to practice handling the book
2. Reading words in their surroundings
- Label objects around the house
- Read words around them (i.e. signages, cereal box)
3. Allow opportunities for them to play with print
- Dramatic play (e.g. pretending to write shopping lists, waiter writing order)
- Writing a letter for a friend
- Making greeting cards
- Making their own story books
Does your child have print awareness?
Perhaps you have seen children ‘reading’ a simple and predictable book not due to their ability to decode words. Rather, you realized they have memorized the words instead. Or perhaps you see them at the corner pretending to read as they flip through the books. Although this may seem senseless, they are actually displaying print awareness. Therefore, do not discourage them and allow more opportunities for them to practice doing so.
So does your child have print awareness yet? Try to implement the strategies above today.
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