Yes, you read that right. We learn to read with our EARS, not with our eyes. Before learning to read, a child MUST understand that our spoken words can be broken down into smaller parts. Being able to HEAR the sounds in our words is a prerequisite for beginning to decode. Without this understanding, a child will never be able to "break the code" of our alphabetic symbol system.
Phonological awareness is the ability to think about, recognize and manipulate the sounds in spoken language, such as syllables, initial sounds, rhyming parts and phonemes. These skills develop along a continuum ranging from simple to more complex and lay the foundation for learning to read. The last stage of phonological awareness, called phoneme awareness, is the ability to blend, segment and manipulate individuals sounds (phonemes) in words, which is crucial for learning to read and write.
Phonological Tasks and Age of Mastery
Word Awareness - age 3
Understanding the number of words in a sentence.
Rhyme & Alliteration - age 3
Recognizing rhyming words and word play with alliterations. For example, do "hat" and "bat" rhyme? What sounds do "pig, pepper, pop" all start with?
Syllable Awareness - ages 3-5
Counting, blending and segmenting words into syllables. For example, putting syllables together to create words (win-dow) and separating words into syllables (what parts are in cupcake? cup-cake.)
Onset & Rime - ages 4-5
Understanding onset and rime so that you can produce a rhyming word. For example, c-at, b-oat.
Phonemic Awareness - ages 4-7
The ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken words. For example, what sounds are in the word "bat" - b-a-t? What word do the sounds d-o-g make? Say "cup" now don't say "p."
Reading is the converse of speaking.
If a child is struggling to complete these phonological awareness tasks orally - with his or her eyes closed - then they will likely have difficulty learning to read and write. It is important to make sure these skills are being taught and practiced in your child's preschool and elementary school classroom. If you feel as if your child may be struggling, feel free to reach out for help!