Print Concepts

Adults sometimes forget that children have to learn the most basic conventions that govern written language, such as the spaces that separate the words. The words of English text run from left to right and from top to bottom. That means that a sentence starts at the upper left of a page and continues from left to right. At the end of the line, the sentence continues until the punctuation indicates the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next.


During regular reading and writing sessions, adults can explain how print works. For example, before reading a book, look at the cover and read the title and author ’s name. While reading the book itself, occasionally run your finger along the text so children can discover that text is read from left to right.

When you need to take a break from reading, for example to answer a question, use the opportunity to point out something that experienced readers take for granted—that there are stops built into text. Say to the child, “Let me finish this sentence before I answer that question.” Then point to the period when you get there. “There—that’s the end of the sentence. Okay, now let’s see if we can figure out your question.” This helps children learn one aspect of how print works—that there are parts to it, such as sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, and that the end of a line or a page is not necessarily the end of a unit of meaning.

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