1-year-old child sits with toys and board books scattered about him. Children as young as 1 can begin developing print awareness by being exposed to books during playtime.

What is Print Awareness and How Can I Strengthen It in My 1-Year-Old Child?

Does your 1-year-old like to play with books as if they’re toys? Great news! Your little one is beginning their important journey on the road to “print awareness”! Print awareness refers to an understanding of how books word and that printed words and images hold meaning.

Learning how to handle a book, the direction that print is read in, and the parts of a book (like the author, illustrator, and title) are important steps in your child’s print awareness development. When your child holds a book upside down, throws it, turns the pages the wrong way, or stops storytime so that they can turn back to their favorite illustration again and again, they are learning how books work! It's one of the earliest literary skills your child can practice, as it begins as soon as they are exposed to books.

Here are some easy ways to strengthen your child’s print awareness during playtime and storytime:

  • Make sure your child has easy access to books. Put some board books, soft tactile-based books, or picture books (or any other type of book that interests them) with their toys. This lets children take the initiative to pull a book out of their toy bin and begin to understand how it works.
  • Incorporate books with bright colors & tactile elements (like crinkly material or velcro) into their toys. This can increase the appeal of books to children and engage their curiosity. When children are interested in books and play with them of their own accord, their print awareness is getting a big leg up!
  • Let kids help turn the pages during storytime. When they want to turn the pages themselves or close the book on their own, they are learning how a book works and strengthening their print awareness. Making storytime a routine element in their day also helps them practice these early literacy skills. Perhaps even build storytime into their playtime routine for a way to wind down as playtime ends. When you read to them, be sure to point to the title of the book, tell children what authors and illustrators do as you read their names, point to words and pictures while talking about them.

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