What is Phonological Awareness?
Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate units of spoken language such as words, syllables, and individual sounds (phonemes). Segmenting sentences into words, combining syllables to form words, and identifying words with the same beginning sound are just a few examples of phonological awareness skills. Phonological awareness can begin early in language development, as children as young as two years of age become aware of rhyme and begin appreciating and finding delight in the rhymes heard in books and songs.
How Phonological Awareness Supports Reading
Since written words correspond to spoken words, children with strong phonological awareness skills are better equipped to learn to read and write. They possess a strong understanding of the relationship between the speech sounds of language and representative letters and letter combinations. Awareness and understanding of the sounds in oral language is essential for learning letter-sound correspondence, blending sounds to decode words, and mapping words into long-term sight vocabulary, all of which are ultimately necessary for reading and spelling (Kilpatrick, 2015).
What Research Confirms
- Phonological awareness can be developed before reading, and it facilitates the subsequent acquisition of reading skills (Smith et al., 1998).
- Phonological awareness training and instruction is beneficial for beginning readers starting as young as age 4 (Bradley & Bryant, 1985; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1991).
- Phonological awareness in kindergarten is a strong predictor of later reading success (Ehri & Wilce, 1980, 1985; Liberman et al., 1974; Kilpatrick, 2016; Perfetti, Beck, Bell, & Hughes, 1987).
- Atypical speech sound errors and distortions in preschool are predictive of weak phonological awareness skills (Preston & Edwards, 2010).
- Many children with learning disabilities demonstrate difficulties with phonological awareness skills (Shaywitz, 1996).
Phonological Awareness Takeaway
Children benefit from training in phonological awareness beginning in preschool, and those with strong phonological awareness skills are more likely to become successful readers and writers later in their academic careers.
- Johanna Sims, M.S., CCC-SLP
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