What is Phonemic Awareness?
The CRITICAL IMPORTANCE of Developing Phonemic Awareness and the Road to Learning Reading
We're strong believers in the idea that there are 2 key "pillars" of learning to read effectively - for anyone, including children and adults. These 2 key pillars are 1) phonemic awareness, and 2) synthetic phonics. I can safely say that there are probably no better methods to teach a child to read than the combination of these two "pillars" of learning to read. In fact, the combination of these 2 can be so incredibly simple and logical, and amazingly effective such that even young 2 and 3 year old children can learn to read phonetically. Here, please watch this short video clip.
The 2 year old boy in the video is demonstrating real phonetic reading - showing a clear understanding and grasp of phonemes and the knowledge and ability to manipulate (synthesize) the phonemes together to read phonetically. This is made possible through the above mentioned 2 pillars of reading - something you won't find with whole language (memory) based reading methods. Teaching phonemic awareness and synthetic phonics allows a child (or adult) to gain a real appreciation and understanding of the mechanics behind reading. This is what leads to reading fluency, accuracy, and comprehension.
So, How do You Define Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemic awareness (PA) is the ability to identify, hear, and work with the smallest sounds of language, also known as "phonemes". These smallest units of sound (phonemes) are represented by graphemes (text), and it is the ability to convert graphemes to phonemes and then connect it all together that makes phonetic reading possible.
In short, it is converting written text into sounds, and then stringing those sounds together to derive the word.
As a child gets ample practice with phonemic awareness activities - such as segmenting, blending, substitutions - this eventually becomes a very automatic process allowing the child to develop into a super fluent AND accurate reader. As you see in the video of the 2 year old boy above, this conversion process of text to sound to derive words is still in its early stages requiring much mental focus (after only 11 weeks of reading instructions). Generally, within a few months, this need to "sound out" will fade away to an instant and automatic ability to decode and read.
You don't have to take my word for how important it is to help children develop PA. There are countless scientific studies done that provides solid support for the importance of phonemic awareness. I won't list them all here, but I will reference one extremely important study published by the National Reading Panel (NRP).
The NRP report analyzed over 1,960 different studies, and noted the amazing benefits of helping children develop PA skills. Here are a few key highlights:
- The NRP concluded that PA training leads to significant improvement in children's reading and spelling abilities.
- The effects of PA teaching on reading and spelling were strong and significant and more importantly, the beneficial effects lasted well beyond the end of the training period. (So a child benefits not only during the training period, but well after the initial training period, likely for a lifetime.)
- The NPR report found that the earlier the PA training took place, the better. Specially, they found that for kindergartners and grade one students, learning PA and synthetic phonics led to a significant improvement in reading, spelling, and comprehension abilities; however, they found that for older children, these instructions improved only reading and spelling, but not comprehension abilities. 
So there are a few key takeaways from above:
- PA training greatly improves reading and spelling abilities
- The benefits are greater if children start at younger ages.
- The benefits are very long lasting, going well beyond the initial training period.
Parents and educators, to teach your child to read effectively, you need a systematic approach - a phonemic awareness curriculum combined with synthetic phonics lessons to achieve amazing results. Our curriculum and books will show you how to enable your child to become a fast and fluent reader following a logical and sequential order of reading lessons.
1. National Reading Panel
An Evidence Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading, 2000.