The ability to read is a fundamental skill that is also an essential part of any young child’s education. The mastery of this skill will serve a child well in all future education and in the real world. Understanding how learning to read works for young children is useful because then you can better tailor your teaching styles to match what they need. Phonemic awareness is one of the most important factors in learning to read language that is alphabetically written.
Reading is something that each one of us does every day, but something that we might not often define. Reading is the ability to generate meaning from a piece of text written in any given language. Essentially, it is taking words on a page and giving them meaning through our understanding of the said language.
Interpreting written words is a bit more cognitively complicated than simply speaking because the person reading has to see the words rather than hear them, so the reader needs to sort of “translate” in their head from written word to sounded meaning. We do this every day when we read without even realising it, but for young children just learning how to read, it is a little bit trickier.
Defining Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic awareness is the sort of name for the skill which allows us to divulge meaning of sounds from words on a page. Essentially, it is divided into three main parts. The first is the understanding of phonemes, which are the most basic unit of language. Each phoneme is responsible for a different sound that can change the meaning of a word. The actual sound itself however is known as a phone.
The conscious awareness of what each of these phonemes and phones are is the second part of phonemic awareness and one of the most important. If you, or more specifically, if a child, knows that certain letters make certain sounds, they can generate meaning from them. For example, if the child knows the difference between /b/ and /c/, then he or she can recognise the difference between the words “bat” and “cat;” or if you tell him or her to take the first sound off “dart,” you will get the word “art.”
The third part is the mastery of manipulation of these units. To be able to gather meaning is enough for simple reading, but as the child grows older, he or she must be able to manipulate these letters and words to create new sentences and understand more complex ones. By being able to manoeuvre through putting letters and words together, the child will better understand their meaning and write better as well.
Reading and Phonemic Awareness: Their Relationship
Reading and phonemic awareness go hand in hand with each other in terms of a child learning to read. It is not necessary for a child to speak with phonemic awareness, although it is a linguistic skill, because there is no alphabetic written aspect involved. Thus, it is also not required for written systems that utilise logographic representations.
However, when you add written letters to the language, then an extra step would be needed to be able to translate the word into sounds. In fact, the answer to the question whether phonemic awareness can lead to reading success is a resounding ‘yes.’ With this system, children will be aware that the alphabet has various sounds and each sound is represented by a written symbol.
With the right kind of instruction, any child, even those who may take longer to grasp it, will be able to learn phonemic awareness, especially as they grow older and develop. An active education and an environment that is helpful and supportive of language is best suited for this. By teaching children about language and phonemics at their most basic levels will help them get a better grasp of this skill and expand on it as their education continues.
Learning how to read is one of the most important skills that young children can learn and one that will stay with them and help them to succeed throughout their lives and whatever career they go in to. Phonemic awareness is very important to achieve this because it can lead to the mastery of turning letters on a page to sounds and be able to generate meaning.
By providing a healthy and active learning environment for your children, you can help them hone this skill and be able to use it to learn to read, write and succeed.
To learn more about how we promote reading at each of our Cuddles childcare centre in Perth, call the Carlisle centre at +61 (08) 9472 4702, the St James centre at +61 (08) 9358 4673 and the Bertram centre at +61 (08) 9419 1844.