What style is best when reading to your preschooler?

Learning to read EnglishDo you want to help your child learn how to read? Use a print referencing style when reading aloud to your child.

According to research, young children spend less than 6% of read aloud time looking at print unless an adult deliberately highlights print for them (Williams & Pursoo, 2008). According to Justice et al., 2008, “When preschool age children are read with a print referencing style every day for 10 minutes they may fixate on print 20,000 times more often than children who are read to in a way that does not draw attention to print.”  I found this fact amazing! 20,000 is very significant!

What is a print referencing style? The technique in which the adult uses verbal and nonverbal references to print when reading aloud to a child (Justice & Ezell, 2000, 2002; Lovelace & Stewart, 2007). The goal of using this style is to orient and improve print awareness. This can mean showing your child directionality (showing them the words read left to right), pointing out the title, etc. To learn more about print referencing style, check out this article here.

I found two interesting articles that discuss the importance of print referencing style when reading aloud to young children. I wanted to share these articles for this month of Research Tuesday. In one study by Laura Justice, Anita McGinty, Shayne Piasta, Joan Kaderavek and Xiitao (2010),  the authors sought to determine the effectiveness of preschool teachers using  a print referencing style when reading aloud to their 4 and 5 year old students once a day during book reading time. In this particular study, there were two groups of preschool teachers participating. The first group of preschool teachers used a print referencing style with their students for a full academic year. The second group of teachers read aloud in “business as usual” style for a full academic year.  Each group of teachers read aloud to their class each school day but with different styles depending on their group. The group that used the print referencing styles with their classes significantly increased children’s print knowledge compared to the teachers who did not. The study also found that the emphasis on print did not affect the language benefit of reading aloud to the children. Both groups of teachers found that reading aloud improved the student’s language abilities.

How does this research affect a parent? Well, the more we do at home with our children, the better they will carry over these skills in school. As parents, we read aloud to our children on a daily basis. Why not make this experience richer by adding a print referencing style?  Here are some tips on how to implement this style at home.

1. Ahelpful tipssk your child to differentiate between the words and pictures on the page.

2. Point out the title of the book and read it together.

3. Discuss what an author and illustrator are. Point out their names. Ask your child to point out their names.

4. Show them the cover, spine and back page. Ask them to show it to you on other books.

5. When reading, point out different words and say the word. If you are working on certain core sight words, ask your child to read those words for you (e.g. the, were, he, she, etc).

6. Discuss how print reads left to right (directionality).

7. Discuss the difference between upper and lower case of letters. See if your child can tell you the difference between the two.

8. Count the words on each page.

9. Show your child two words on a page. Ask them “Which is longer?”

10. Discuss page order. Ask your child, “What page does the story start on?

To learn more about Research Tuesday, click here.


Justice, L. M., A. S. Mcginty, S. B. Piasta, J. N. Kaderavek, and X. Fan. “Print-Focused Read-Alouds in Preschool Classrooms: Intervention Effectiveness and Moderators of Child Outcomes.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 41.4 (2010): 504-20. Web.

Zucker, Tricia A., Allison E. Ward, and Laura M. Justice. “Print Referencing During Read-Alouds: A Technique for Increasing Emergent Readers’ Print Knowledge.” The Reading Teacher 63.1 (2009): 62-72. Web. <http://ici-bostonready-pd-2009-2010.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/Print+Referencing+During+Read+Alouds.pdf>.







  1. […] What style is best when reading to your preschooler? Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her blog to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. […]

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