Sounds of Speech

Sounds of speech are the sounds that make up our oral language. Children must understand how speech sounds work to be ready for instruction in reading and writing.


To understand a spoken language, a child must be able to hear and distinguish the sounds that make up the language. Most children can distinguish between different speech sounds in their native language. For example, almost all native English speakers can hear the difference between similar English words like grow and glow. Children who are not able to hear the difference between similar-sounding words like grow and glow will be confused when these words appear in context, and their comprehension skills will suffer dramatically.

There are many activities that you can do with young children to help them increase their knowledge of speech sounds. Having fun with word sounds is a great way to play and learn at the same time. 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; that is, the ability to notice, think about, and play with sounds in words. These skills will be used every time a young child reads.

To learn more about sounds of speech, browse the articles, parent tips, research briefs, and video below.


Featured Video: The Sounds of Speech

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo