Before a child can read effectively, they need to know the concepts of print. These concepts are particularly important for emergent and early reading and writing.
Concepts of Print is the awareness of 'how print works'. It encompasses a number of understandings that allow the reading process to take place including:
- the knowledge that print conveys a message;
- the knowledge of how a book is read, its orientation and direction of text;
- the distinction between sentences, words and letters, and
- knowledge of the alphabetic system and the basic difference between letters and words.
Concepts of Print can be further broken up into specific areas:
Concepts of Text
This is the knowledge that print relays a message. Since written texts were invented over 5000 years ago for trading purposes, all written text is written for a specific reason and relays a message of some type.
Concepts of a Book
This is the knowledge that a book has a front cover and a back cover, and author and sometimes an illustrator. A book has to be held the correct way with the text the right way up.
This is the knowledge that text is read in a specific direction. In the English alphabet, this is reading text from left to right. It also includes:
- beginning at the front of the book and the ending is at the back
- we turn pages right to left
- the concept of what is the top of the page and which is the bottom
- reading pages and words from left to right and then sweeping back to the beginning of the following line of text
This is the knowledge of how words and letters work in the text. It includes knowledge of spacing between words, recognising the difference between symbols and letters and the purpose of punctuation and capital letters.
Alphabet knowledge is also considered a component of the Concepts of Print knowledge. This includes knowledge of the names of each letter, the order of the alphabet, recognition of each upper and lower case letter, and knowing the difference between letters and words. The best way to teach alphabet knowledge is through the alphabet song:
Generally, many of these concepts are taught through reading text and books to children. Through this modelled reading, they are able to ascertain the difference between words and letters and the direction that text takes as it is read. Before children start school, generally speaking, most have grasped many of the concepts of print knowledge and these are built upon in their first year of school.
Letter knowledge, along with the basics of directionality, are important for children to have grasped before they begin primary school. This gives them the best chance of getting a head start on their reading as they enter the first years of their schooling.