Print knowledge definition

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.

Concepts of Print Assessment | Reading Rockets

By: Reading Rockets

An informal assessment of the concepts of print, including what the assessment measures, when is should be assessed, examples of questions, and the age or grade at which the assessment should be mastered.

All assessments should be given one-on-one.

What it measures

If a student understands:

  • That print has meaning
  • That print can be used for different purposes
  • The relationship between print and speech
  • There is a difference between letters and words
  • That words are separated by spaces
  • There is a difference between words and sentences
  • That there are (punctuation) marks that signal the end of a sentence
  • That books have parts such as a front and back cover, title page, and spine
  • That stories have a beginning, middle, and end
  • That text is read from left to right and from top to bottom

When should it be assessed?

Assess concepts of print twice during kindergarten, at the start of school and at mid-year. In addition, as you model story reading techniques to help guide instruction, identify students who need additional support, and determine if the pace of instruction should be increased, decreased, or remain the same.

Examples of assessment questions

Give the student a book and ask the following questions:

  • Can you show me:
    • a letter?
    • a word?
    • a sentence?
    • the end of a sentence (punctuation mark)?
    • the front of the book?
    • the back of the book?
    • where I should start reading the story?
    • a space?
    • how I should hold the book?
    • the title of the book?
    • how many words are in this sentence?

Age or grade typically mastered

Some students enter kindergarten with an understanding of print concepts, but other will master it as the school year goes on.

See also this concepts of print assessment from Michigan's Mission: Literacy.

Reading Rockets (2004)


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