Early literacy has a lot of terminology that sounds very technical and can maybe even be a little intimidating to parents. In actuality, most of this terminology just sounds intimidating. You are probably already doing some of these things with your kids -- you may not even realize it.
One thing I know you are doing already is modeling print awareness for your kids when you read to them.
Trust me, I know you are and here's why. Print awareness is simply a fancy name for knowing how to use a book. You open it, you make sure it's right-side up, you read the print from left to right, you use the pictures to help tell the story, etc.
When you are introducing these concepts to children, I think a really fun and effective way to work on them is to be silly. Children love to be the one to correct an adult and know all the right answers. It's much easier to accept correction or practice a skill when you have already gotten a chance to be the teacher and build confidence in the subject.
Here are 5 of the main concepts of print awareness for preschoolers, and how I teach them in a silly but effective way:
- We hold and open a book in a certain way. With really little kids, I like to start reading the book upside down, saying, "Oh goodness I think this book is too hard for me to read." After they stop laughing at me, they will grab it and fix it so it's right-side up.
- Books have an author and illustrator. I will act surprised and point to the author saying, "Oh no, someone wrote his name on the book! It must belong to him, so we can't read it!" This gives the child a chance to tell me all about the author. I repeat this for the illustrator.
- The print tells the story and the illustrations coordinate with it. Take time to point at the print and say, "Look at these beautiful illustrations. How pretty!" This lets children point to the pictures and tell you that those are the pictures and the print are the words. Feel free to ask, "What do the words tell us?" and add to the answer if it's not complete.
- Words are read left to right with a return sweep at the end of the text of one line to the beginning of another. Here, I will use my finger to track as I read and skip a few lines, then go back to a paragraph or word above, then read right to left for a while. The story makes no sense and the children will correct me. If you are just introducing this concept, use a book your child knows very, very well so your mistake is obvious.
- Books are read by turning the pages front to back. Jump a few pages forward and back, reading pages at random. Even young toddlers will often step in and correct you. Ask your children to show you how to read a book and hand it to them. Kids are usually pleased as punch to show off what they know, all the while giggling.
Learning to read is a big deal but it doesn't have to be all work and no play. Get silly, have fun, and make books fun.