As literate grown-ups, we tend to take for granted that the written word surrounds us. We get the information we need from road signs and building marquees, we pick up the newspaper (or our handheld device) to check a sports score, we look at a menu, we sort through the mail, we read the credits as they scroll up the screen after a movie, we page through magazines, and we read books.
|A thoughtful thank you note from a Class Participant|
Another important aspect of print awareness is helping a child gain familiarity with handling books. Books are meant to be handled. Yes, even by babies. True, board books will get nibbled (Offer a teething toy as a alternative!). Yes, pages will get torn (Get out the tape and fix the book together. When my daughter was little I would sign hurt when a page ripped. Once we fixed it, I would sign fine.) If books become objects of worry or fear, reading will not be fun. Anticipate that some books will get bedraggled in the process. Trust that as children have more opportunities to handle books, they will gain experience and learn how to handle them gently and lovingly. (Case in point: I am one of those people who sometimes leaves a book open face down to mark the page I left off. My kids routinely call me out on this and suggest that I mark my book in another way so that the book won't get damaged. They love it when they can catch me doing something not quite right and can offer a better option!)
Another way to help children gain familiarity with handling books and decoding the words from left to right is to invite your child to read to a doll (or dog). Prop a younger sibling and a board book on your lap and prop a doll and a really familiar picture book on your older child's lap. Read the board book, and model some skills like reading the title and author name and following your finger from left to right under the words. Now sign your turn and have your older child read to the "baby" on his or her lap. Often what you'll see happen is your child (who has likely memorized the name and even some passages from the book) will "read' the title by moving their fingers along the printed word from left to right. As they progress through the book, they may recite familiar passages and/or invent their own re-telling of the story (which is fine!), but they will often move their hands along the words from left to right, modeling what they've seen you do when you read. Some kids will ask you to read the words, and they will move their fingers along the printed areas to model this practice while you read. Try it out and let me know how it goes!
Okay, so here are a few of specific ideas for how to incorporate Print Awareness when you're reading books from the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series:
A to Z Sign with Me. This story is unique alphabet story, in that it doesn’t just have different words and pictures for each letter of the alphabet. Instead, it is a story told in rhyme about going to a carnival. The story is told so that the words beginning with the letters A to Z are featured in sequential order (i.e. "Talk like the animals. Oink! Peep! Quack. Cheer when the roller coaster speeds down the track."). After I've read this story directly from the book, I like to write the story "vertically" on a sheet of paper or easel, so children can see how the alphabet is structured in the story. For example:
Lip grows a
Nose blows a sneeze.
I encourage children to sign each letter of the alphabet in order as the story progresses. It's really fun!
The Nest Where I Like to Rest: I like to wear my crazy chicken hat when I read this story. After reading, I set the hat on a basket of plastic eggs and post a sign on the basket/nest that reads, "Quiet! This is the Nest Where I Like to Rest." The kids get a kick out of it.
So Many Feelings: After reading this story, I like to show kids an easel with a list of feeling words with picture clues noted next to each word. I point to different feeling words and then ask the children to act out that emotion and/or sign that emotion.
Hip, Hip, Hooray! It's Family Day!: After I read this story, I invite children to make a their own book or even just a picture called "My Family" and then read it to someone else or to a doll. To add enrichment, I encourage children to sign the handshape that goes along with each family members' picture or page.
Okay, it's your turn. I would really love to hear some of your ideas for building Print Awareness with your children and/or your experiences using some of the ideas I've suggested in this post. I look forward to your contributions!