The term “phonological awareness” is often thrown around when teachers and parents discuss a child’s ability to read. However, the meaning of phonological awareness, as well as its important relationship to reading, is sometimes overlooked. Phonological awareness can refer to a few different components of reading – mainly, it is used to refer to the “awareness of the phonological segments in speech” (Blachman, 2000). Children who have a high level of phonological awareness can separate words into individual sounds and put them back together. Many studies have shown that there is a strong positive correlation between good phonological awareness and reading ability. However, it is important to mention that no correlation has been shown between intelligence and phonological awareness – in other words, if a child has trouble sounding out words, it does not mean that he or she will have trouble in other academic areas.
So why is phonological awareness so crucial to reading and spelling? Well, first of all, phonological awareness encompasses knowledge of letter-sound correspondence. This then leads to the ability of segmenting sounds (i.e. “cat” is separated into /c/ /a/ /t/) and blending sounds (/d/ /o/ /g/ makes the word “dog”). Both of these skills translate into reading – children start reading by sounding out letters on a page and then blending them into a word. Once blending and segmenting are mastered, a child can move on to learning about other spelling rules (such as letter blends, diphthongs, closed syllables, etc).
Another argument, that is not as prominent as the other, is that phonological awareness improves a student’s vocabulary. When a student learns a new word, he or she must be able to distinguish it from other words and sound it out correctly. A student who has good phonological awareness skills tends to have a stronger vocabulary.
Stay tuned for our next blog about phonological awareness activities that you can practice with your child at home!