ABC and 123: Teach Mama: Print Referencing During Read-Alouds

Monday, August 23, 2010

Teach Mama: Print Referencing During Read-Alouds

Welcome! New to ABC and 123? Please check out our FAQ in the sidebar.

There's no denying the fact that read-alouds provide parents (and teachers) with a perfect time to sneak in a little bit of learning for children.

Whether the time is used to talk about story elements (characters, plot, setting, etc.) or to model reading comprehension strategies (questioning, predicting, connecting, etc.), read-alouds can be used as a platform for teaching a number of important literacy skills even before children are able to decode the text themselves.

One other very important technique parents can incorporate during read-alouds is print referencing. Print referencing is so easy and takes so little time that sometimes it can be incorporated into a read-aloud without saying a word! Believe it!
  • Print Referencing: Print referencing is simply pointing out basic elements of print as a text is being read.
It's all about getting emergent readers interested in print by "highlighting the forms, functions, and features of print during read-alouds" (Zucker, Ward, and Justice, "Print Referencing During Read-Alouds: A Technique for Increasing Emergent Readers' Print Knowledge." The Reading Teacher, 63(1), pp.62-72.

We all read the title of a book before we begin reading, right? We know where to begin reading and automatically read the first word on the top left side of the page. We skim over the words in an illustration and often don't even think to read them. But print referencing has us do simple things like point to the title or the first word on the page as we read it; print referencing has us point to the word in the illustration and mention it instead of ignoring it.

Print referencing can be incorporated into any read-aloud--fiction, nonfiction, poetry--anything's game.
Here we used Disney*PIXAR's World of Cars.

So how can parents and teachers use print referencing and what texts should they use? Zucker, Ward, and Justice suggest that print referencing can be incorporated "when teachers are reading books with children with the intent of promoting literacy development" and that one read-aloud per day should include some sort of print reference. That's easy enough.

Here are a few ways to incorporate print referencing in a read-aloud:
  • Page order: We read this page first, and then we read the next one. . .
  • Point out the title of the book: This is the title of the book. It tells us. . .
  • Point out text direction--top to bottom, left to right: We begin reading this word, and then we move. . .
  • Talk about the author/ illustrator: The author wrote the book. . .
  • Discuss the names and concepts of letters: I see the same letter in two words/ Can you find a letter 'M' or 'T'?
  • Concepts of word: Let's count the words on this page. . .
  • Short/ Long words: Which word is longer/ shorter. . .
  • Read captions/ subtitles: The caption here tells us about the photo. . .
  • Point out words in illustrations: Here it says 'mail' on the mailbox. . .
Print referencing has been proven in numerous studies to be beneficial for children in developing a solid understanding of word concepts, alphabet knowledge, and overall knowledge of print. The above suggestions are only a sampling of ways to incorporate print referencing into a read-aloud, but they offer a solid starting point for parents and teachers.
It's been shown that "the read-aloud context is a powerful one" in which "young students have the opportunity to engage with ideas in texts above their reading level" with texts full of "important ideas and themes of consequence" (Heisey & Kucan, "Introducing Science Concepts to Primary Students Through Read-Alouds: Interactions and Multiple Texts Make the Difference." The Reading Teacher, 63(8). p. 667). Providing students with simple but meaningful support during read-alouds can yield strong benefits long-term. All we need are a few tricks to keep in our back pocket. Happy reading!

(Photos in this post are taken from Disney*PIXAR's World of Cars, Foreword by John Lasseter)

Next up:
That's it, my friends! This is the last of my series here on Literacy, and I thank Katie and Katie sincerely for the opportunity to have contributed as the Literacy Consultant for ABC and 123 for the last few months. Cheers!

You can find more on this topic and others over at teach mama, where Amy shares the ways she sneaks a little bit of learning into her children's every day. . . or as often as she can with a 6, 5, and 3 year old. Or join her--and many other ABC & 123 friends--at we teach where they're chatting up a storm, sharing ideas, and learning a little themselves.


  1. This is such a good idea. I never thought to point out things other than the images we see, characters, etc. The title, author and all that I read aloud but never thought to say "this is the title, it tells us the name the author gave the book"

  2. This is a great idea! I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't think of it on my own, considering I'm a certified media specialist...

  3. Kristi and Jen--

    Please don't sweat it! There are so many things I read everyday on blogs and websites that make me think the same thing--why didn't I think of that?!

    That's what we're here for--to help support each other and to remind each other of these kinds of things! :*)

    cheers and thanks for reading!

  4. As always...I really appreciate Amy's insights. I love her series on literacy!