Phonemic Awareness and Its Critical Importance in Learning to Read

As parents, we want to know how we can help our children become successful readers. Here we will focus on the important foundational element of phonemic awareness and its importance in learning to read.

Simply put, phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds within words. Mastering phonemic awareness is essential to becoming a successful reader.

According to Learning Rx, “Research has shown that a child’s awareness of the sounds of spoken words is a strong predictor of his or her later success in learning to read.” With this in mind, Red Apple Reading has compiled the following list of simple activities you can do with your child to facilitate the mastery of this important reading skill.

1.  Introduce syllables:  Helping your child recognize syllables is a great way of helping her understand that words are made up of different sounds. Clapping out the syllables and/or determining the number of syllables in a word helps your little one learn to isolate sounds.

One thing to keep in mind when practicing different sounds with your child is that individual phonemes are comprised of one sound only. For example, the /b/ sound in the letter “b” is a short sound, and should not be pronounced like “buh” or “beh.” When pronouncing letter sounds as a model for your child, try to keep each sound as distinct as possible—this will make it easier for your child to eventually blend multiple sounds together to make words.

2.  Teach songs and rhymes:  Children’s songs and rhymes help your kiddo learn to hear the natural rhythms of spoken language. Introduce your child to books and materials that focus on rhymes. As with word families, rhymes help children hear the phonetic connections between words with similar spellings and sounds. For more fun, rhyming activities and resources, check out this series of posts from Fun-A-Day.

3.  Discover beginning, middle and ending sounds:  Learning to segment words into their individual sounds is a great way to develop phonemic awareness. Start with any given word and ask your child which sounds she hears at the beginning, middle, and end of each word. Begin with short Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) words such as “cat,” “bug,” “map,” etc. When your child masters these simple words, you can move on to more complex ones.

4.  Play phoneme isolation games:  Give your child practice with hearing sounds within words. For example, you can go on a “sound hunt” around the home, finding all of the objects that have the /s/ sound in them (stove, soap). Discover how the folks at Kids Activities Blog used Alphabet Sound Tubs to develop this skill!

5.  Practice with “word families”:  Read books to your child or introduce your child to videos that focus on a particular word family, or words that have the same ending (e.g. words ending in “-an”: can, fan, Dan, man, pan, tan). There are countless ways to practice word families. Start with these creative activities from Education.com.

Once your little one has grasped phonemic awareness, he will be well on his way to becoming a successful reader! If you want to learn more about this important skill, check out our Open House Video #1 on YouTube.