Make the most of read-aloud time with your mini-me! Use a technique scientists call print referencing when you read books out loud to your child.
Print referencing is when adults read books to children and use verbal and non-verbal cues to encourage children’s attention to and interactions with print. Simply put its pointing out basic elements of the page as you read.
This reading technique has proved incredibly successful in bolstering children’s early cognitive and linguistic skills. For example, in a study by Ohio State University researchers, parents of four-year-olds were sent home with picture books and instructed to use print referencing in their read-aloud time for four weeks. Print referencing included questions, comments, and requests about print, such as “Show me where the O is?” and “What do you think this says?” It also included non-verbal gestures like tracking print on the page while reading.
The scientists found that the kids whose parents used the print referencing technique showed greater improvement in recognizing words in print, segmenting and counting words, and knowledge of basic print concepts when compared to kids whose parents read the same books without using print referencing.
Try to incorporate these simple verbal and non-verbal cues (or print referencing techniques) when you read books with your preschooler:
Ask your little one questions like “How many words are on this page?” or “What do you think the wolf’s speech bubble says?”
Ask your child to point out specific items on the page while you read the story. For example, “Show me where I should start reading on this page” or “Point to the first letter of your name.”
Point to print as you read it, tracking the print from left to right.
Comment on the content of the picture book pages. Examples include “These words are exactly the same” or “The word bus is on the yellow school bus.”
Look for These 4 Features in Picture Books
Up your storytime game even more! In a study featured in Psychological Science, scientists identified four key features of storybooks that naturally encourage children to engage more with print. Consider these features next time you’re looking for a new picture book:
- Visible Sounds – For example, when an animal like a snake has a printed sound of hiss accompanying its picture.
- Visible Speech – Storybooks that feature speech bubbles in the photos.
- Environmental Print – There are labels of objects in the illustrations.
- Variety in Text – The story features changes in font size, color, and style for accenting purposes.
To learn more about school readiness, read Reimagining School Readiness: A Position Paper with Key Findings by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.