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Phonemic Awareness: A Pre-Reading Skill

Most people have a basic understanding of the term phonics.  Over the last few years, our school systems have reverted back to a more traditional phonics-based approach to reading.  This has been a wise move.  However, there is an essential component to reading that must be in place before any phonics program will succeed in teaching a child to read.  That key element is call phonemic awareness.

Phonemic awareness is a term not many people have heard and even fewer understand. However it is critical.  The word phone comes from the Greek word “sound.”  Phonemic awareness means having the ability to hear the individual sounds within a word.  All words are made up of smaller sounds.  Being able to break apart, change, delete and add, compare, blend sounds together, and rhyme are all phonemic awareness skills.
 
To illustrate this point, let’s think of the word, “cat.”  Most people can hear that cat is made up of three individual letter sounds — /c/ /a/ /t/.  However, someone who has not developed phonemic awareness would hear cat as one chunk of sound and not be able to break the word into smaller sounds.  This inability means you can’t read an unknown word by sounding it out, nor spell words by sounding them out (instead of memorizing its spelling).
 
These are a few sample questions for a comprehensive test of phonemic awareness, that can be administered to a child age 5 or 6.  This quiz should be given verbally.
 
  • What sounds do you hear in the word hot
  • What is the last sound in the word map?
  • What word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cup?
  • Do the words pipe and pen start with the same sound?
  • How many sounds do you hear in the word cake
  • How many words can you think of that rhyme with the word meat?  
 
This simple quiz can reveal a lot about the abilities of the struggling reader.  Is the reason they are struggling due to improper phonics instruction or do they lack age appropriate phonemic awareness?  The latest scientific research shows that lack of phonemic awareness is the number one reason children (or teenagers and adults), with average or above average intelligence, struggle to read and spell easily and accurately. 
 
Help is available for your child that may be struggling and it is available here in the Santa Clarita Valley and most other communities. 
 
 
posted by Chrisie in Phonemic Awareness and have No Comments