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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

Ways To Build Phonological Awareness To Young Children!

Updated: May 20

Pre-reading skills begin very early in life right from tuning in to the sounds of language. From the days of infancy itself, they start listening to sounds and getting associated with them. Phonological awareness and Phonemic awareness are two crucial aspects of pre-reading skills.


What is phonological awareness?


Simply put, phonological awareness refers to how children identify and work with sounds. It is the ability to recognize and interpret the spoken parts of sentences and words. For example, being able to identify words that rhyme, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, identifying the syllables in a word, and blending, etc. It leads to the development of phonemic awareness.


Phonological awareness skills are developed in children in the preschool years as pre-reading skills. This means you can start working on these skills around the age of 3 years. These continue to develop up through formal reading instruction, about age 6-7 years. Moreover, older children can benefit from these skills as well, especially if they are struggling with reading or spelling.


These skills help a child to understand how words are made up of individual sounds and those sounds can be manipulated and changed to create different words. They become aware of the phonology of our language, meaning how different letters and sounds create the words that we speak, read, and write.


Why are Phonological Awareness Skills Important?


Many of these skills are closely linked to success in learning to read and spell. Children without speech delays benefit from strong phonological awareness skills before formal instruction on reading. Phonological awareness skills can also be helpful for older children who have difficulty sounding out words to read or spell them. For children who require speech therapy, developing strong phonological awareness skills can be extremely helpful for them in learning to read.


What is the difference between phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics?


Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. This includes blending sounds into words, segmenting words into sounds, and deleting and playing with the sounds in spoken words.


Phonological awareness refers to oral language and phonics refers to print. 

For example, a child who knows letter sounds but cannot blend the sounds to form the whole word has a phonological awareness (mainly phonemic awareness) problem. On the other hand, a child who can orally blend sounds with ease but mixes up vowel letter sounds, reading pit for pet and set for sit, has a phonics problem.


Some fun activities to develop phonological awareness in kids


Parents and educators can introduce phonological awareness during reading, singing, or play activities.


1.     Listen and Learn: Good phonological awareness starts with kids picking up on sounds, syllables and rhymes in the words they hear. So, read to them frequently. Start with rhyming books. It helps to point out repeated sounds. 


2.     Time to Rhyme: Point out rhyming words while you read and then ask your child to pick out the rhyming words in books without your help. Teach your child nursery rhymes and practice saying them together. Alternatively, you can ask them to pick the word that doesn’t rhyme from a list of words you speak out.


3.     Sing a song: Singing is a great way to get teach rhyming to kids. Search for good songs on the Internet that you can use to focus on other kinds of phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Urge them to sing with you and also make gestures for different action words.


4. Break it up: Make your child break up words and identify the sound of each part.  Start by using compound words such as pineapple, baseball, or classroom. You can also use LEGO pieces to make them understand two words can be joined or broken up and each has its individual sounds.


5. Get Crafty: Kids love hands-on learning. Try making a collage of items that start with the same sound by using pictures from magazines. Or you can jumble them up and ask find to rhyming words from a jar. You can use your imagination and ease to create fun activities like these.


Kids who struggle with these kinds of activities may be showing early signs of reading issues. So, start early so that you identify if there is any gap and seek help if required.

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