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Concepts of Print

Page history last edited by Lauren Murray 14 years, 6 months ago

Concepts of Print



Concepts of print refers to the ability of a child to know and recognize the ways in which print “works” for the purposes of reading, particularly with regard to books.


 Components of concepts of print for the English language:

  • Concepts to know for a text as a whole
    • The print, the words on the page, is what is read in a book
    • Illustrations are not read, but are related to the print
    • Print represents spoken language
    • Print has many purposes (or genres)
    • The same text will have the same words at all times, print does not change
  • Concepts of how text is read
    • Words are read from left to right
    • A line of text on a page is read word by word from left to right
    • Lines of text on a page are read from top to bottom (unless the text is meant to be read differently)
    • “Return sweep”- at the end of a line of text reading continues on the next line down at the left side again
  • Concepts of identifying parts of print
    • Space separates words from each other
    • Words, sentences, and texts have a “beginning” and “end”
    • Each word has a “first letter,” “last letter,” and “middle letters”
  • Concepts of print orientation
    • Orientation of letters is important (ex: p, b, q, and d have the same physical shape but are oriented in different ways)
    • Print has a distinct “right side up”
    • Books are held a certain way and opened a certain way
    • Pages of a book are turned from left to right
  • Concepts of parts of a book
    • Identifying the front and back of the book
    • Books have covers
    • Identifying the name of author and illustrator
    • Other parts of books including an index, table of contents, glossary, etc.
  • Knowledge of upper-case and lower-case letters and their roles, and punctuation can also be considered in concepts of print
  • Alphabetic principle- a concept of print defined as the understanding that by putting different letters together in different ways, words are made (Bennett-Armistead, Duke, & Moses, 2005).


 Importance of concepts of print:

  • Knowledge of these concepts are essential to conventional reading and writing in English
  • The concepts of word are predictive of how well a student will be able to read in the early grades
  • Early elementary instruction often relies on the assumption that most children understand concepts of print. Students can struggle and fall behind if they do not have knowledge that the teacher assumes for them to have, especially if that discrepancy goes unnoticed


How concepts of print develop:

  • Develop very early, some concepts of print can be seen from as early as a year old
  • Some concepts may still be developing into elementary school age
  • Some concepts of print develop before others (ex: how to hold a book learned before orientation of letters)
  • Children often develop their own ideas about how print works with exposure to different texts, as they develop the knowledge of how print truly works
  • A child’s progress with concepts of print can be seen through observation of how they interact with books, draw, write, etc.
  • Overview of ways to assist children in developing concepts of print:
    • Point to words when reading to children
    • Write in front of children so that they can read what is being written, and say the words as you write
    • Frequently refer to terminology of parts of a book – front, back, author, illustrator, cover, etc.
    • Tell children explicitly about different concepts of print when the opportunity arises
    • Ask children to point out different concepts of print to check their knowledge

 Shedd, 2008a


 Issues for Second Language Learners:

  • Different types of writing systems exist for different languages
    • Alphabetic: Letter symbols stand for different phonemes, ex: English, Spanish, French, Italian (while the same Latin letters are used for these different languages, phonemes are different), Greek, Russian
    • Syllabic: Written symbols stand for individual syllables instead of phonemes, ex: Japanese, Cherokee, some Indian languages
    • Logographic: Written symbols stand for each unit of meaning in the language, ex: Chinese, parts of Japanese and Korean
  • Some different languages have different concepts of print, therefore in learning English, not only must students learn the vocabulary and grammatical structure of English, but must also adapt to the new concepts of print as well

Strickland & Snow, 2002


MLPP Concepts of Print Assessment

This assessment tests whether or not a child is able to identify certain components of concepts of print. The child is given a book and is asked a series of questions about these components from a list provided in the assessment about the orientation of a book, the direction text is read, and even certain specifics about the text such as identifying capital and lower-case letters and punctuation marks. The test is scored on a point system based on the number of correct answers the child gives for the questions.

Michigan Department of Education Early Literacy Committee, 2001



Bennett-Armistead, V.S., Duke, N.K., & Moses, A.M. (2005). Literacy and the youngest learner: Best practices for educators of children from birth to five. New York: Scholastic.


Michigan Department of Education Early Literacy Committee. (2001). Michigan Literacy Progress Profile. Lansing, MI: Department of Education.


Shedd, M. (2008). Concepts of print and genre. Presentation for TE 301 (a), East Lansing, MI.


Strickland, D., & Snow, C. (2002). Preparing our teachers: Opportunities for better reading instruction. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press.

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