That’s what my grandmother called it when our handwriting was tip tipawful–“chick’n scratchin’.” And that’s what I imagine print on a page looks like to children who are still figuring out what books are all about.

Print Awareness is one of the six early literacy skills needed by kids before they are able to begin learning to read.

If a child has print awareness, they realize that the “chick’n scratchin'” on the page is more than scritchy-scratchy marks on the paper. They realize that the marks make shapes and that a shape is either the same or different  from another shape. And all those shapes together represent the sounds of the language they hear, day in and day out.

You have to think like a child, figuring it out for the first time, to truly appreciate the remarkableness of the discovery.

While any book with words printed in it can encourage the development of print awareness, some make print a little more noticeable. Words might be in color or in a different type style from the rest of the text. They may wander, fly, or splash across the pages. The words may be very few and far between, very big or very small. What they all have in common is that the print somehow stands out, making it more likely a child will notice  and start seeing the print as separate from the pictures–and not just a bunch of “chick’n scratchin’.”

Here are some of my favorites:

  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Beaumont
  • Freight Train by Crews
  • Tip Tip Dig Dig by Garcia
  • Yikes! by Florczak
  • Rain by Stojic
  • A Visitor for Bear by Becker

Which books do you think are especially helpful in building print awareness?