hear the term "phonemic awareness" as being important in the development of a
child's reading skills. What does it mean?
being able to hear the sounds in spoken words that give them meaning. For
example, a child who can hear the /c/ in "cat" as well as the /a/ sound in the
middle and the /t/ sound at the end, has good phonemic awareness. A child who
can rhyme words does, too.
A young child who
has experience "playing" with language sounds has good phonemic awareness. It's
an even more important skill for reading success than intelligence. It's clear
that giving a young child lots of practice with phonemic awareness will pay off
in reading and writing ability on down the road. That fact is yet another
reason why young children should be taught to read with phonics techniques,
rather than the conglomeration of tactics in use in most schools today.
sounds of speech are called phonemes.
Linguists put phonemes inside slashed lines to symbolize how they are different
from letters of the alphabet, as well as to show when speech-sound changes
don't affect the meaning of the words. So the speech-sound for the letter "p"
is written like this: / p / That's called a phonogram,
since it's written down.
have gotten pretty sloppy in our speech and pronunciation, probably spurred on
by television, and so we slur our phonemes a lot when we are talking to each
other. It makes it hard to distinguish the individual sounds within the words.
Grownups have been listening and speaking long enough to have learned how to do
that automatically. But small children must learn how to hear and pronounce the
phonemes properly in order to be able to translate meaning into written symbols
that we call words.
This is why
it is so important to NOT let small children watch much TV. Instead, they need
to be listening and conversing a lot, preferably with an adult who has a big
vocabulary, pronounces words correctly, and puts words in order correctly. The
small child watches the adult's mouth form the letters, hear how those letters
sound individually and slurred together, copies the "construction" process, and
gradually begins speaking meaningfully.
it is so hard for non-English speaking children to pick up English for reading
and writing in school is that their parents and families at home aren't giving
them this practice. Also a hindrance: the sound changes that distinguish
between phonemes are different for each language. For example, in Spanish, the
/ s / and the / z / sound the same, so it is difficult for a child from a
Spanish-speaking home to understand the difference in meaning between the very
similarly-spelled zip and sip.
are differences in the aspiration, or
pronunciation of the various phonemes, that make it difficult for small
children to hear and pronounce the phonemes accurately. Compare how the / t /
sounds in the word "top" vs. the word "stop," for example.
who have trouble hearing the differences between consonant sounds are called dysphasic, and will likely need
special-education services to help them master reading and writing.
about phonemic awareness, see the article, "Job One of a Preschool Parent:
Building Phonemic Awareness," #10 in the Preschool category in www.ShowandTellforParents.com
the book, Early Language: The Developing
Child, by Peter A. and Hill G. de Villiers.