Teaching About Print
 

Helping children understand that what they say can be written in print is critical to early literacy. Teachers can create many different opportunities for children to explore their own writing, to listen to a variety of literature, and to read labels of objects and places within the classroom. Through these experiences, children gradually become aware that print has meaning and is used for many purposes.



The following is an excerpt from Teaching Our Youngest.


From the time children are born, print is a part of their lives. Words decorate their blankets, sheets, and PJs. They appear on the posters and pictures that decorate their walls. They are on the blocks and toys that they play with and in the books that are read to them. Although printed words may be all around them, young children are not often aware of them. And, of course, they do not yet understand the role printed words will play in their lives.

It is important for young children to:

  • Recognize print in their surroundings.
  • Understand that print carries meaning.
  • Know that print is used for many purposes.
  • Learn about print through experimental writing.

Children learn about print by seeing many examples. In your classroom, these examples should include:

  • Books and other printed materials for the children to look at and pretend to read. For very young children, have soft-covered and board books that are washable.
  • Photographs and pictures with captions and labels.
  • Posters, calendars, and bulletin board displays that feature print.
  • Labels and signs for special areas of the classroom.

In addition, you should also have available a variety of props with printed letters and words for the children to use in dramatic play. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Menus, order pads, and play money.
  • Recipes, empty food cartons, and marked plastic measuring spoons and cups.
  • Old telephone books, memo pads, envelopes, and address labels.
  • Price tags, stickers, and large paper bags (with printed words).
  • Toy cars, trucks, and farm and construction equipment (with printed words).

Of course, always keep plenty of pencils, markers, and crayons handy for the children to use. Here are some other things that you can do to help your children learn about letters and words.

  • Show the children that printed materials are all around them by reading examples from everyday life.

Teacher Talk

  • Jessie, that's a great T-shirt you're wearing today. It has words on it. What do you think those words say?
  • Look at the sign above the door. It says, "Exit." What do you think that word means?
  • Have the children help you make signs and labels for projects or for special areas in the room.

Teacher Talk

  • We need to make a sign for the fish tank. Let's see can you help me? "F-I-S-H", we need to start with "F."
  • Wow, you made a castle. Do you want to make a sign for your castle? Do you want the sign to say "Tim and Harry's castle"? OK, T-I-M, (say slowly, sounding out the word) "T" (say the sound) we need to start with a "T" (say and write the letter).
  • We use this door to come in and this one to go out. These signs I've made say, "In" and "Out."
  • Draw the children's attention to the many ways that you use printed letters and words everyday.

Teacher Talk

  • I'm going grocery shopping later, so I wrote this list of the things I need to buy. Can you tell me how many things are on the list?
  • I want your parents to know how well you re-doing, so I'm sending them an e-mail.
  • Here's today's newspaper. I like to read papers every morning so that I know what's happening in the world.
  • Let's go over to the computer and see if we can find out some more information about butterflies.
  • Look at this menu I brought from my favorite restaurant. Here are some pictures of their desserts. This one looks good. It is a cake. Let's read it. C-a-ke (sound out slowly).
  • Distinguish between children's beginning writing and drawing.

Teacher Talk

  • I like the cat you drew. She is a pretty orange cat. Can you tell me your cat's name?


"Teaching About Print." Teaching Our Youngest. Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force. ED/HHS. 2002. English.


Last Reviewed: September 2009

Last Updated: April 26, 2012