Phonemic Awareness

What is Phonemic Awareness and why does it matter?

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to distinguish and manipulate individual sounds within spoken words or syllables.

Phonemes are the individual sounds.  They are the smallest units of sound in spoken language.  For example, the word “bat” has three phonemes: b-a-t.  So does the word “bath”: b-a-th.

A child with good phonemic awareness can segment phonemes, blend phonemes, delete a phoneme and tell what is left, change individual phonemes to make new words, make words that rhyme.  These are critical reading and spelling skills.

Without good phonemic awareness, a person will have difficulty learning the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent.  That is why good phonemic awareness is essential for a person to be able to apply phonics instruction.  (Phonics is applied phonemic awareness.)

Most children develop phonemic awareness naturally as their language develops.  However, a person with dyslexia lacks this important foundation for learning reading and spelling.  The good news is, a trained Orton-Gillingham reading and spelling tutor can teach this skill, and then build on it incrementally and systematically so people with dyslexia can learn to read and spell!  Parents can encourage phonemic awareness development in their preschool children, as well.  Click here for a list of activities and helpful resources.

Quotes from NIH researchers  (National Institute of Health):

      “The lack of phonemic awareness is the most powerful determinant of the likelihood of failure to learn to read.”

      “Phonemic awareness is more highly related to learning to read…than tests of general intelligence, reading readiness, and listening comprehension.”