Print in reading

Print Awareness: An Introduction | Reading Rockets

Children with print awareness can begin to understand that written language is related to oral language. They see that, like spoken language, printed language carries messages and is a source of both enjoyment and information. Children who lack print awareness are unlikely to become successful readers. Indeed, children's performance on print awareness tasks is a very reliable predictor of their future reading achievement.

Most children become aware of print long before they enter school. They see print all around them, on signs and billboards, in alphabet books and storybooks, and in labels, magazines, and newspapers. Seeing print and observing adults' reactions to print helps children recognize its various forms.

The ability to understand how print works does not emerge magically and unaided. This understanding comes about through the active intervention of adults and other children who point out letters, words, and other features of the print that surrounds children. It is when children are read to regularly, when they play with letters and engage in word games, and later, when they receive formal reading instruction, that they begin to understand how the system of print functions; that is, print on a page is read from left to right and from top to bottom; that sentences start with capital letters and end with periods, and much, much more.

As they participate in interactive reading with adults, children also learn about books – author's and illustrators names, titles, tables of content, page numbers, and so forth. They also learn about book handling – how to turn pages, how to find the top and bottom on a page, how to identify the front and back cover of a book, and so forth. As part of this learning, they begin to develop the very important concept "word" – that meaning is conveyed through words; that printed words are separated by spaces; and that some words in print look longer (because they have more letters) than other words.

Books with predictable and patterned text can play a significant role in helping children develop and expand print awareness. Typically these books are not decodable – that is, they are not based on the sound-letter relationships, spelling patterns, and irregular/high frequency words that have been taught, as in decodable texts. Rather, predictable and patterned books, as the names implies, are composed of repetitive or predictable text, for example:

Two cats play on the grass.
Two cats play together in the sunlight.
Two cats play with a ball.
Two cats play with a toy train.
Two cats too tired to play.

Most often, the illustrations in such books are tied closely to the text, in that the illustrations represent the content words that change from page to page.

As they hear and participate in the reading of the simple stories found in predictable and patterned books, children become familiar with how print looks on a page. They develop book awareness and book-handling skills, and begin to become aware of print features such as capital letters, punctuation marks, word boundaries, and differences in word lengths.

Awareness of print concepts provides the backdrop against which reading and writing are best learned.

Print Awareness: Guidelines for Instruction

By: Texas Education Agency

Print awareness is a child's earliest understanding that written language carries meaning. The foundation of all other literacy learning builds upon this knowledge. The following are guidelines for teachers in how to promote print awareness and a sample activity for assessing print awareness in young children.

Guidelines for promoting print awareness

  • The organization of books

    Make sure students know how books are organized. They should be taught the basics about books – that they are read from left to right and top to bottom, that print may be accompanied by pictures or graphics, that the pages are numbered, and that the purpose of reading is to gain meaning from the text and understand ideas that words convey.

  • Read to students

    Read to children from books with easy-to-read large print. Use stories that have predictable words in the text.

  • Use "big books" and draw attention to words and letters

    Help children notice and learn to recognize words that occur frequently, such as a, the, is, was, and you. Draw attention to letters and punctuation marks within the story.

  • Label objects and centers in your classroom

    Use an index card to label objects and centers within the classroom with words and pictures. Use an index card with the word "house" for the house center and draw a picture of a house. Draw students' attention to these words when showing them the different centers.

  • Encourage preschool children to play with print

    They can pretend to write a shopping list, construct a stop sign, write a letter, make a birthday card, etc.

  • Help children understand the relationship between spoken and written language

    Encourage students to find on a page letters that are in their names: "Look at this word, 'big. ' It begins with the same letter as the name of someone in this room, 'Ben.'"

  • Play with letters of the alphabet

    Read the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Place several copies of each letter of the alphabet in a bowl and ask students to withdraw one letter. When everyone has a letter, ask each student to say the letter's name and, if the letter is in his or her own name, have the child keep the letter. Continue until the first child to spell his or her name wins.

  • Reinforce the forms and functions of print

    Point them out in classroom signs, labels, posters, calendars, and so forth.

  • Teach and reinforce print conventions

    Discuss print directionality (print is written and read from left to right), word boundaries, capital letters, and end punctuation.

  • Teach and reinforce book awareness and book handling
  • Promote word awareness by helping children identify word boundaries and compare words
  • Allow children to practice what they are learning

    Ask them to listen to and participate in the reading of predictable and patterned stories and books.

  • Provide practice with predictable and patterned books

    Also try using a wordless picture book like Pancakes. Go through each page asking the children to tell the story from the pictures. Write their narration on a large piece of paper. Celebrate the story they authored by eating pancakes!

  • Provide many opportunities for children to hear good books and to participate in read-aloud activities

A sample activity for assessing print awareness

Give a student a storybook and ask him or her to show you:

  • The front of the book
  • The title of the book
  • Where you should begin reading
  • A letter
  • A word
  • The first word of a sentence
  • The last word of a sentence
  • The first and last word on a page
  • Punctuation marks
  • A capital letter
  • A lowercase letter
  • The back of the book

Excerpted and adapted from: Guidelines for Examining Phonics and Word Recognition Programs, Texas Reading Initiative, Texas Education Agency (2002). And from: Tips for Teaching Kids to Read; by Ed Kame'enui, Marilyn Adams, & G. Reid Lyon.

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Why, when reading printed text, we react differently than when reading text from a screen?

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Why do we react differently when reading printed text than when reading text from a screen?
Printed products don't make our brains boil

For the consumer, screen reading and paper reading require different cognitive skills, which can result in understanding your message or completely ignoring it. So why do we react differently when we read printed text than we do when we read text from a screen?

The best way to understand how our brains react differently when we read printed text versus screen text, and why it matters, is to create a parallel universe where the rules of web design apply to magazines.

Let's say you open a print magazine to a specific page looking for your favorite author who has an opinion on a topic that is close to yours. When you find the page you need, you find that the article you are looking for is not there. Instead, a small blue dash appears in front of you, crawling across the top of the page. At the end of this arduous journey, you are offered not the fascinating and thought-provoking prose you expected, but an advertisement for a car. In order to get rid of ads, you have to click on it once, or even twice. The ads disappear and you start to read the material, but then your eyes are distracted by several information inserts about the topics of other columns and blogs, as well as a list of a dozen of the biggest tear-making sports injuries. You hesitate for a fraction of a second, and then you still return to the article, and after a couple of paragraphs you find that in order to continue reading you will have to perform some additional manipulations with the page. And complete confusion occurs when the video you didn’t notice in the corner of the page comes to life and starts talking.

Brain Rewiring

On their own, websites that dazzle the reader with a sudden throw of information seem like an annoying misunderstanding. Together, they interfere with the systems our brains set up for reading. This is why research has shown time after time that when we read from a screen, we are much more likely to misunderstand text and find reading more stressful.0009 ), while we are much more easily distracted, usually changing tasks to the computer every three minutes.

Today, the press openly says that the brain can change under the influence of all sorts of factors, from premarital sex to smoking. However, the associate director of the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London (UCL), Professor Sophie Scott, says that this stereotype does not apply to reading. “We need to be taught to read,” she says. “We also learn to speak, but we don’t need to be taught that. And reading (in the way it works in the head) is a passive function of speech, which is why people with hearing loss have a hard time learning to read. But there's still a lot we don't know about how reading affects the brain. For example, we do not know why it is difficult for people who cannot read to draw lines, but not to count.

Since mankind began to read as early as 4000 BC, it is an art that our brains were not naturally adapted to. So he impromptu created his own neural tissue reading systems for other abilities such as speech, motor coordination, and vision. "When you're reading, most of the time and amount of cognitive processing takes place in moving your eyes from the word you read to the next," says Scott. “We don’t stop at functional words – tests show that it’s difficult for us to remember how many times “and” or the definite article appeared in a read paragraph – but we concentrate on keywords. ” This works because the brain is very good at evaluating and predicting text. “Think about how you read a book, how little you move, how you hold the book at a certain distance that is most comfortable for your eyes, how you subconsciously look at the spread of the book from top to bottom and from left to right, how you, without looking, flip the page, and be sure to remember where you left off in the text. In other words, you know how much you've read and how much you have left to read,” Scott continues.

Predictable knowledge of the font frees our brains for important things: focusing on difficult words, thinking about the text and understanding it. A University of Leicester study found that even when psychology students read e-books—generally faithful copies of printed material—they needed to reread the text more often than in print to absorb the same information, and those who read printed books absorbed the material more deeply. According to Kate Garland, a lecturer in psychology at Leicester, students who read printed textbooks knew rather than memorized, and knowing is better, because in this case, the main points are more easily and quickly restored to memory.


The publishers of books, magazines, or newspapers have perfected the art of making reading easy over the centuries. "Look how much the book has improved," Scott explains. “The first publications didn't even have gaps between words, but today they use layout, line spacing, and other markings to make it easier for us to read. You see the same thing in newspapers: they are perfectly lined up for our eyes, with large print, narrow columns, and large spacing between words.”

The first website didn't appear until 1991, and Jakob Nielsen, guru of web-based ergonomics, admits that the internet still hasn't solved the problem of making electronic reading easy on the brain. At their worst, websites incite us to indulge in two kinds of bad reading: sharp narrowing of the field of vision when we fix our eyes on one piece of text or on a keyword; and in the peripheral vision, where we are distracted by links to other blogs, one-click calls to win a tempting prize, and a general sense of the need to hurry up and get on with the next upload.

Unpredictability begins with the beginning of reading the first line on the screen. Often we do not get, as when reading on paper, the signals that indicate the length of the text. When reading from a monitor or tablet, a message about receiving mail can cause us to lose the place where we interrupted reading, and scrolling (scrolling) is disorienting. As a result, our brain becomes, in Scott's words, "unattached." Next, we must consciously decide whether we want to continue reading, and one study reports that 35% of us don't want to. Unpredictability grows exponentially if we read from the screen of our mobile phone: Nielsen believes that in this case we remember only 48% of what is remembered when reading from the monitor.

Are we getting dumber from the Internet?

A UCL study at two UK educational institutions found that many interactive web users use the so-called. "powerful browsing": carefully study the headings, pages of contents, and brief recommendations for quickly winning various prizes. After a page or two, they stopped reading and rarely even returned to the articles they had bookmarked.

These findings are supported by the Technon-Israel Institute of Technology, which found that netizens are less likely to set specific tasks for themselves, less likely to reread difficult sections of text, or check to see if they understood what they read; and, disturbingly, too sure of what they think they know. But does this mean, as some experts argue, that the Internet is dumbing us down? Scott takes these statements with irony, pointing out that most of the discoveries in the means of communication were met with ominous warnings that people were being duped. In Plato's Dialogues, Socrates warns that writing will lead to the emergence of people who will be "boring conversationalists, with the seal of wisdom", which is actually not true. In the 15th century, the Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico feared that Gutenberg's printing press would "impair the mental faculties of man. " Today, Scott says, "many of us use Google as a memory supplement, but it's hardly anything new—we've been using memory cards since the first drawings on cave walls." And she also emphasizes that neuroscience does not believe that print has a decisive advantage in its Sisyphean (endless) struggle with Facebook, real-life TV programs, and Instagram.

Many differences in the perception of print and electronic text will decrease as web design improves. And the presentation of editorial and advertising messages on the web will be more advanced than today's messy ads appearing on top of the text you read.

Conscious choice

Printing vs. electronics is not a one-man game. The notorious viral clip "Magazine is a non-working internet tablet (iPad)" in which a one-year-old girl pushes away a magazine in feigned disgust because it doesn't work like her tablet says as much about the future of media as new wave band Kajagoogoo can talk about rock and roll.

While websites compete fiercely for the production of intricate content in the struggle for survival, print retains an unparalleled ability to successfully communicate complex ideas and give the reader time and space to comprehend the information contained in print texts. Research results show that we consciously appreciate the weight, smell, and tangibility of printed matter, and, subconsciously, also the fact that it does not make our brains boil.

Posted by Paul Simpson | Print Power
Translation of the Commonwealth of Paper Wholesalers
01 August 2014

Are you substituting flicking through by scanning?
Brain & Reading
Print Power, 28 July 2014

This article was first published in Print Power (Spring 2014).


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