In our last article, we explained the first three pre-literacy skills that have been identified as predictors of later reading ability: vocabulary, narrative skills, and phonological awareness. Here, we will take a look at the other three pre-literacy skills: print awareness, print motivation, and letter knowledge. Parents can help children build these abilities through easy and fun activities at home; this will help equip children with the tools they need to become confident readers!
Skill: Print Awareness
What it means: The awareness of literacy in the child’s environment and basic concepts about print
How to practice: Literacy components are everywhere, not just in books. Point out to your child all kinds of print in her world. Look at the letters on a storefront, at words written on street signs, at text on a cereal box, at print on clothing items, and even at logos (“See that big yellow sign outside of McDonalds? That looks like a huge letter M!”) Also, help children to become familiar with the components of print by exploring and taking about books in addition to just reading the stories: kids will discover that (at least in English) books open and read from left to right and top to bottom, that books usually have a cover with a title, which tells a bit about the book, and that pictures often connect to the ideas that are written in print.
Skill: Print Motivation
What it means: The desire to interact with books and other literacy
How to practice: Make reading or looking at books a fun activity! Find books at the library with pictures that will interest your child. Leave books all around his environment in accessible places: a low bookshelf, a basket in the playroom, a stack next to his bed. Motivating your child to interact with print can also take place within play, using materials like letter puzzles and alphabet magnets. Another way to increase print motivation is simply by example: let your child see you interested in reading a book, a magazine, or the newspaper.
Skill: Letter Knowledge
What it means: The understanding of the alphabet: letter names and corresponding sounds
How to practice: While this may seem like the most academic of the pre-literacy skills, and will no doubt be taught directly in school, you can help your child get ready by introducing letters within play. Try using a fun alphabet puzzle to emphasize the shapes of each letter and the sounds they make (e.g. “Ooh, you have the letter O. It looks like a circle! O says ahhhh, like octopus and olive. Let’s see if O fits in this circle hole right here.”) A few ideas for fun places to practice letters: in the bathtub (tracing letters on the walls or playing with foam bath toy letters), in the kitchen (try colorful letter magnets on the fridge), or outside in the snow or sand. Another fun favorite: try making pancakes in the shapes of letters!
These are just a few ways parents can encourage the development of these important pre-literacy skills. The more children are exposed to these concepts, the more ready and motivated they are to begin to read!
Anna Fredman, M.S., CCC-SLP
Certified Speech Language Pathologist
Anna Fredman is a licensed, certified Speech Language Pathologist. She received her Master of Science in speech language pathology from the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA and previously worked at the Monarch Center for Autism. She currently sees school-aged children and has also worked with toddlers through students 21 years old. Anna has specialized in therapy for individuals on the autism spectrum, with a special interest in high-functioning students focusing on social pragmatics and young children learning basic communication and social skills. She also addresses reading, expressive language skills, written expression, and articulation with her students.