There’s so much that goes into reading. It’s a complex process that’s very scientific. For parents, it can be confusing when you research teaching your child to read. Think about it, all of that terminology that’s thrown around. It can make our head spin, it you don’t know what they mean. So, where do you begin? Why not start at the beginning? My suggestion is to define phonemic awareness and understand its importance.
Define Phonemic Awareness
Now, I know that phonemic awareness is a word that may be unfamiliar to you. It doesn’t come up in everyday conversation. Yet, it plays a vital role in your child’s communication skills. This is because phonemic awareness is one of the fundamental language skills.
Simply, phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the individual sounds within words. Yes, it is a spoken language skill. Children speak before they read or write. Before your child can read, he or she must be able to understand how sounds work to form words.
There are 44 distinct sounds, phonemes, in the English language that are used to form words. These sounds include letter combinations in addition to the 26 letters of the alphabet. For example, /ch/ in chair is a combination of /c/ and /h/. When you say a specific word, you’re combining individual phonemes.
It’s important to remember that to define phonemic awareness, you have to include the ability to manipulate sounds to make words. Knowing the phonemes isn’t enough. A child has to be able to form words from those sounds. This requires that a child must learn how the sounds can be manipulated.
What It Includes
Basically, phonemic awareness involves 6 basic components: rhyming, isolation, segmentation, deletion, substitution, and blending. Each of these represents a different way in which phonemes can relate to each other. By manipulating the different phonemes, your child learns how the phonemes work together to build words.
In other words, by manipulating the phonemes within a word using even one of these components, your child can create new words. For example, using substitution, your child can turn “bat” into “cat” by substituting the beginning /b/ sound with the /k/ sound. By experimenting with each component, your child will discover word families. Word families are a group of words that share the same pattern.
As your child continues to experiment with manipulating the different phonemes, the number of words that he or she knows will continue to grow. To accomplish this, it will take a conscious effort. Phonemes aren’t obvious and must be taught.
Why It’s Important
Purposefully teaching your child phonemic awareness is important for several reasons. First of all, phonemic awareness lays the foundation for understanding the rules of the English language. Basically, the rules of English set forth how words are used together to convey meaning. And, words are made up of phonemes. Before your child can understand how words work together, he or she must understand how phonemes work together to make words.
Another reason why phonemic awareness is important builds upon the English language rules reason. As our child grows up, he or she moves from spoken English to written English. Phonemic awareness is a key building block to reading skills. Fundamentally, reading is connecting symbols that represent a word to that word.
In other words, reading is decoding symbols. These written symbols represent spoken words. Think about it. When you read something, you hear the words in your head, don’t you? Or, when people read aloud, the words are spoken. That’s because language was first meant to be spoken. So, your child has to make the connection between spoken and written language.
How Phonemic Awareness Helps Your Child
This is how phonemic awareness helps your child. Because a child manipulates sounds through phonemic awareness, it’s a precursor to phonics. Phonics is the system of relationships between letters and the sounds they represent. Phonics is basically breaking the code of the alphabet.
Before your child learns the letters of the alphabet, he or she needs to know the sounds the letters make. Phonemic awareness comes before phonics.
Likewise, phonics comes before reading. Spending time on phonemic awareness with your child sets him or her up for printed words. Learning to read is a step-by-step process.
Studies have shown that children that have difficulty reading early on usually have difficulty with phonemic awareness. In fact, much of the efforts to correct reading problems in the lower grades in school focuses on phonemic awareness. Even more, studies show that students that have experienced solid, intentional phonemic awareness instruction tend to learn to read more easily.
For example, the National Reading Panel determined that the level of phonemic awareness instruction that a child receives will determine that child’s level of success during the first two years of reading instruction. That’s why you need to define phonemic awareness and understand its importance.
Phonemic Awareness is Too Important to Ignore
Because of the importance of phonemic awareness, you shouldn’t neglect to teach your child phonemic awareness. More than that, you shouldn’t wait until your child is school age to begin focusing on phonemes. Most schools begin to teach phonemic awareness is kindergarten or first grade.
The only problem with that is that your child has already been using spoken words for a few years already. Research shows that children actually begin showing signs of phonemic awareness around age 2. They’ve also seen written words around them. If you wait until your child is in school, you’re missing out on teachable moments.
Since children are already naturally inclined towards phonemic awareness before they enter school, as a parent, you should encourage phonemic awareness at home. And, no you don’t need to be a teacher to do so. There are many simple things you can do to encourage phonemic awareness like rhyming games.
Wanting What’s Best for Your Child
By starting with phonemic awareness earlier, you are giving your child keys to success that will help them later on. As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. Because of this, you should take charge of your child’s education. And not wait for a school to control it.
Education shouldn’t just exist in a classroom. Your child is already learning before he or she goes to school. He or she is learning to manipulate words as he or she is learning to speak. And, as he or she grows in her speaking abilities, he or she is learning phonemic awareness. Why not make it intentional and include phonemic awareness activities?
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