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preschool child talking with mother

Speech Sounds

Phonological awareness is a set of critical pre-reading skills: the ability to hear, identify, and play with the sounds in spoken language — including rhymes, syllables, and phonemes. Children with strong phonological awareness skills are ready to become readers. Phonological awareness includes a child’s ability to:

  • Identify words that rhyme
  • Count the number of syllables in a word or in familiar names
  • Recognize alliteration (words with the same beginning sound)
  • Segment (break) a sentence into words
  • Recognize and play with the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. This is called phonemic awareness.

Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can learn to have fun with sounds! Figuring out words that rhyme, coming up with words that share a beginning sound, and saying silly words all help build a child’s phonological awareness.

Fun with phonemes

One family in Raleigh, North Carolina, shows how playing word and rhyming games puts their child on the road to reading success.

Learn more about sounds in speech