Concepts about print and book handling skills are usually paired together as one of the earliest reading readiness skills that children develop before they can learn to read successfully. In this post, you’ll discover 13 easy ways to help your child develop a strong understanding of concepts about print and book handling skills.

The most fundamental idea of print concepts is that print has meaning. In other words, those squiggles and marks on paper actually mean something, and by looking carefully at them, people can figure out what they mean. Kids need to know that the individual marks on the paper are letters and that a group of letters creates a word.

The term “book handling skills” refers to the understanding of how books work. It includes knowing how to hold books, and how to turn pages correctly.

The key to helping your child these skills is to provide a literacy-rich home environment.  Then, create opportunities for your child to interact with it.

Use these tips to transform your home into a literacy-rich environment that will make it easy and natural for your little one to develop strong concepts about print and book handling skills.

baby playing on floor with books and toysKeep Books as Handy as Toys

1. Have books widely available and readily accessible. Keep children’s books available throughout your home in places your child can easily reach. Add plastic books to your collection of bath toys, place baskets of books in every room, and always keep some in the car. You want books to be as commonly found in your home as toys.

2. Encourage children of any age to “read” books. Babies will play with them, toddlers may look at the pictures and preschoolers might retell the story as they flip through the book. Kindergartners and early readers may look for words they know. These are all examples of children developing their understanding of how print works.

Make the Most of Time With Books

3. Sit next to your child when you are reading, so they can see the pages of the book.

mother and baby looking at a book4. Before you start reading book with your child, point to the title as you read it. Run your finger under the author’s name as you read it, and then explain that the author is the person who thought the story up in their brain and wrote it down. Read the illustrator’s name the same way, and explain that the illustrator is the person who made the pictures to go along with the story.

5. When it feels natural and the print is big enough, point to the words as you read them.

6. Encourage your child to gently help you turn the pages sometimes.

7. Model how you use print throughout the day. Draw your child’s attention to it when you are writing an email to a family member, reading a recipe card, or reading a sign in the environment. Have them help you write a grocery list! Let your child see you read and write for fun and entertainment, and also for practical purposes.

8. Write out a daily schedule with your child at the beginning of the day, and then check off each activity together as you complete it.

9. Point out signs in your environment when you are out and about in the community. Draw your child’s attention to common traffic signs, and familiar street names and store names.

little girl scribbling in book with mom watching herMake it Fun and “Hands-on”

10. Create a writing corner with a wide variety of materials. Add different types of paper, and provide crayons, colored pencils and markers. You can even staple paper together to create little books for your child to write in. Provide time for your child to explore and play in the writing corner every day.

11. Have alphabet materials available, too. Alphabet books, alphabet puzzles and alphabet toys are fantastic ways to immerse your child in print. Keep alphabet stickers and alphabet stamps in the writing corner or craft area. Display a couple of alphabet charts at your child’s height in different rooms of the house.

Label Your House

12. Attach clearly written labels to as many items in the house as you are willing to. Post-its are great for this, or you can use index cards. When my kids were little we took a fair amount of teasing from a visiting uncle when he entered a bathroom and found the toilet conveniently labeled. Label toy containers, doors, windows, kitchen appliances, rooms, tables, chairs, sinks, cupboards etc.  You can have your kids help you write the labels and put them on, or do it yourself.

13. Regularly encourage your children to “read the house” by touching each label with a pointer or a finger and saying the word. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t really reading it. The idea is to make print very familiar to your child. You want them to take it for granted as part of your home environment.

Easy and Natural

With just a little bit of purposeful attention on your part, you can help your child develop print concepts and book knowledge easily and naturally.

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young boy sitting in chair in library reading a book mom and baby looking at bookmother and girl looking at a bookpreschool girl looking at a book to learn to read books


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