Literacy, or the ability to read and write, is paramount to a child’s success in school. Many children struggle with these skills, and this struggle may be due to difficulty with the building blocks of reading and writing, also known as phonological awareness. Phonological awareness can be thought of as one’s ability to identify sounds and letters as they relate to our spoken (and written) language. We all remember playing rhyming games in elementary school, but many people are unaware of their importance!
Children who have an understanding of phonological awareness understand that sentences are made up of words, words are made up parts (syllables), and each syllable has distinctive sounds. One great way to practice phonological awareness is through rhyming games and alliteration. Children will enjoy saying tongue twisters like, “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.” and identifying how many /s/ and /sh/ words they can count!
Phonemic awareness, a subset of phonological awareness, allows children to manipulate parts of language. Similar to phonological awareness, phonemic awareness is also comprised of parts including the following:
• Segmenting: what sounds do we hear in the word “hat?” /h/, /a/, /t/
• Blending: if you hear the sounds /t/, /o/, /p/, what do we get when we put them together?
• Deleting: what’s “bat” without the “t?”
• Substituting: if we change the /h/ in “house” to an /m/, what do we get?
• Identifying: what’s the first sound in “cat?”
Phonemic awareness is separate from letter identification as it targets individual sounds; however, parents can incorporate letter names when practicing.
Phonological awareness typically begins in preschool and continues through early elementary school to prepare children for reading. These skills serve as the foundation for a child’s ability to read and write. If you suspect your child may be struggling with phonological awareness skills, a licensed speech-language pathologist can help!