Logo Homeschool World ® Official Web Site of Practical Homeschooling Magazine Practical Homeschooling Magazine
Practical Homeschooling® :

Print Awareness: A First Step Towards Reading

By Frank Armbruster
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #74, 2007.

Pin It

Frank Armbruster


First, let me illustrate a deductive process, sometimes called deductive logic.

We give (or tell) the learner what the process is (example: addition.) Then we specify the inputs, i.e. six and five. We ask for the result. If the result is forthcoming, we can say that deduction has taken place. Frequently, there is an algorithm that describes the process. In the early stages of arithmetic teaching, we illustrate it with objects such as counters or marks of some type and grouping.

If the process is what we call reading, we can't explain it, we can only illustrate it. We illustrate it by doing it. We specify the input, say a written word on a page. We give the result, i.e. a spoken utterance (or word.) We want the learner to internalize the process, but we don't want or expect an explanation. We want only that the learner do it.

Let me go a little further. We read to a young child who is a non-reader. We look at words on a page. Ideally we point to the words at the same time as we say them. We perform the process - without explaining it, because we can't explain it, it's happening inside our brain - and we say the result of that process, i.e. a verbal utterance, based on the code of converting letters (graphemes) into sounds (phonemes). The thing we want the child to know is that those shapes (letters) can be converted into sounds (phonemes). But I believe we shouldn't try to explain that. I believe the learner should discover that.

We also want the child to know that the first word on the page of a book is usually found at the upper left-hand corner and the words go from left to right, one after the other. But again, we want the child to discover that. We can test for this discovery by asking the child to point to the first word on the page. If she points to the right word, we praise. Then we ask the child to point to the next word. We read it aloud. Then we ask the child to point to several words in sequence. We say them aloud. Then we slide our finger (or a pointer) along the line of print as we read the words.

What I'm trying to illustrate is a way of showing the idea of print awareness. The first thing a new learner ought to know is print awareness. And we teach it by this inductive process. We don't try to explain it. We test for it, but we don't explain it or ask the child to explain it.

Now, contrary to how we do it with the child, I'm going to spell it out for you, the reader. Here's an outline of what I believe is the idea of print awareness:

  1. There are lots (26) of different letters (graphemes) and lots (44) of different spoken sounds (phonemes) and a group of letters close together is a word.

  2. Written words represent spoken sounds

  3. The first word on a page is at the upper left

  4. A space between letters signals the next word

  5. Words are printed left-to-right and read (aloud) one after another

The first duty of a parent is to illustrate print awareness by reading to the child. And we want the child to discover print awareness for himself. We don't want him to explain it, just to show it by doing examples of pointing.

I've tried to illustrate why I call the process an inductive process. Some might call it discovery learning. Or it might also be called teaching by illustration.

I hope this makes sense. It isn't easy to put it on paper. I could show it to you more easily if we were together and if we had a child here to work with. If you have questions, please email me in care of the publisher. I'll do my best to answer all queries.

I have outlined a "natural" way to introduce very young children to what reading is all about. This first step in getting your child ready to read requires only a book with large print, a finger to point, and a patient, good reader (you). There's much more to reading, of course, as we will see in future columns.


Was this article helpful to you?
Subscribe to Practical Homeschooling today, and you'll get this quality of information and encouragement five times per year, delivered to your door. To start, click on the link below that describes you:

USA Individual
USA Librarian (purchasing for a library)
Outside USA Individual
Outside USA Library

Time4Learning Spanish For You

Articles by Frank Armbruster

Neat Ideas that Help a Child Learn to Read

Another Way to A-B-C

Print Awareness: A First Step Towards Reading

Important Concepts in Early Reading

Phonemic Awareness: A Major Factor in Reading

Reading Corner: Learning to Speak

Learning the Code

Do It Yourself Toys to Help Emerging Readers

A Reason for Reading

Popular Articles

Whole-Language Boondoggle

University Model Schools

Give Yourself a "CLEP Scholarship"

Getting Organized Part 3

Advanced Math: Trig, PreCalc, and more!

Discover Your Child's Learning Style

Patriarchy, Meet Matriarchy

I Was an Accelerated Child

Myth of the Teenager

Shakespeare Camp

Interview with John Taylor Gatto

Columbus and the Flat Earth...

The Gift of a Mentor

Joyce Swann's Homeschool Tips

Can Homeschoolers Participate In Public School Programs?

What We Can Learn from the Homeschooled 2002 National Geography Bee Winners

A Homeschooler Wins the Heisman

Laptop Homeschool

Montessori Language Arts at Home, Part 1

Combining Work and Homeschool

Classical Education

Top Tips for Teaching Toddlers

Don't Give Up on Your Late Bloomers

The History of Public Education

What Does My Preschooler Need to Know?

AP Courses At Home

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

How to Win the Geography Bee

Montessori Math

Phonics the Montessori Way

Getting Started in Homeschooling: The First Ten Steps

Saxon Math: Facts vs. Rumors

A Reason for Reading

Top Jobs for the College Graduate

Who Needs the Prom?

Teaching Blends

The Benefits of Debate

Getting Organized Part 1 - Tips & Tricks

The Equal Sign - Symbol, Name, Meaning

Why the Internet will Never Replace Books

Art Appreciation the Charlotte Mason Way

Start a Nature Notebook

Character Matters for Kids

Teach Your Children to Work

Bears in the House

The Charlote Mason Approach to Poetry

How to "Bee" a Spelling Success

Critical Thinking and Logic

Narration Beats Tests

The Charlotte Mason Method