We are not born with the inate or genetic knowledge of how books, paragraphs and sentences are constructed, nor are we aware how print is formatted, in our language or our part of the world. We have to learn this from a teacher or preferably, from a parent.
In the West, we start reading a piece of text from the top left of the page and move along the line from left to right, finishing at the bottom left. Can you remember who showed or taught you that? Was it your parents or an older sibling or did you have to wait until you went to school to discover this?
First School day
Unfortunately, a large proportion of the population turn up on their first day at school not knowing some of these basic things. Things, that would not only make their school days so much easier and more enjoyable, but it would also make for early detection of reading and learning issues.
When reading to a child, the parent or nurturing adult can easily demonstrate by pointing, where they are starting to read and by continuing to follow the text with their finger, as they read the words. Thus, a non-reading child will become 'familiar' with this method of examining and following text, even if they are still unable to recognise the words they are looking at.
A child who is experiencing dyslexia may have difficulties in this exercise of following text, even after being shown where to start and how to follow the words. The parent or adult needs to persist with this exercise to be sure that this is indeed an issue and not just a lack of interest or concentration by the child.
Bedtime stories are a great opportunity to share this knowledge with your child and it is also an important piece of 'quality time' that you will spend with your child and one which they will cherish forever.
If you do share bedtime story reading with your child, do so in a position that the child can see you pointing to the text and following it with your finger. After a few sessions you should allow your child to point to the words and follow along as you read. This will show you their level of 'print awarenss', or not.
Do forgive them if they get sleepy during these periods and lose their concentration. Remember, it should be a pleasant and enjoyable experience for you both. One that leads to a restful night's sleep for the child, as well as a low key learning activity.
Print awareness is essential in the development of reading skills. Encourage your child to watch carefully when you point and read words and text, then ask them to do it with your help.
Don't panic! If you have any concerns about your child's print awareness or reading skills, consult a qualified consultant for their opinion and they will be able to provide re-assurance, pertinent comment and specialist observations.