Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes. A child's skill in phonemic awareness is a good predictor of later reading success or difficulty.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. Manipulating the sounds in words includes blending, stretching, or otherwise changing words. Children can demonstrate phonemic awareness in several ways, including:
- recognizing which words in a set of words begin with the same sound
("Bell, bike, and boy all have /b/ at the beginning.")
- isolating and saying the first or last sound in a word
("The beginning sound of dog is /d/." "The ending sound of sit is /t/.")
- combining, or blending the separate sounds in a word to say the word
("/m/, /a/, /p/ – map.")
- breaking, or segmenting a word into its separate sounds
("up – /u/, /p/.")
Phonemic awareness and phonics are not the same thing. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to make words. Phonics is the understanding that there is a relationship between letters and sounds through written language. Children who cannot hear and work with the phonemes of spoken words will have a difficult time learning how to relate these phonemes to letters when they see them in written words.
To learn more about phonemic awareness, browse the articles, parent tips, research briefs, and video below.