Does Your Child Have Phonemic Awareness?

Editor’s Note: We hope you’ve had an amazing summer! The new school year is now upon us, so we’re sharing some handy resources to help parents and their children succeed in class. Our friends over at Sight Words are introducing a new curriculum for teaching Phonemic Awareness (or Pre-Phonics) to kids. What exactly is Phonemic Awareness and how can it benefit my child, you ask? Read on to find out!


What Is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to think about, analyze, and manipulate the sound structure of individual words. This pre-phonics skill, also called phonological awareness, will make phonics that much easier for your child. It is the foundation of a child’s reading ability—if a child can’t hear the individual sounds in a word, he will always struggle to figure out the letters in that word.

Phonemic awareness is the skill of hearing the difference between bat and mat and understanding that changing the /b/ sound in bat to an /mmm/ sound can create a different word.

This ability to work with sounds (phonemes) in language, sometimes called pre-phonics, is a foundational skill that makes learning to read easier.

Phonological awareness is the ability to divide spoken language into larger units, such as words and syllables. Before diving into individual sounds within words (phonemic awareness), we teach children to pay attention to more obvious sounds (environmental noises, sentences, whole words, and syllables).

A child with good phonemic awareness, who is ready to start learning phonics, will have mastered the skills of blending, splitting, and substituting phonemes:

  • Blending: taking a sequence of phonemes and blending the sounds together into a word
    This skill feeds directly into phonics. Children who struggle with reading are most likely to have problems with blending. A child who can blend sounds is going to find learning to read much easier than a child who struggles with blending.
  • Splitting: breaking a word down into its individual phonemes
    Reading and spelling are much easier if a child has this skill of being able to deconstruct and sound out unfamiliar words. Splitting is the most important and the most difficult skill that a child must master before learning to read successfully.
  • Substituting: changing one phoneme within a word to make a different word
    Substituting sounds within words is the final milestone of phonemic awareness. Being able to substitute sounds also makes learning to read with sight words more effective. If you memorize one phonetically irregular word, such as the Dolch sight word could, then you automatically know a lot of other words like would and should.

Benefits of Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness makes learning to read easier. A child with phonemic awareness can already blend sounds into words, and so they find phonics more intuitive. When a child can separate words into sounds, spelling (breaking words into letters) becomes easier.

Check out some lessons and games on! is a comprehensive sequence of teaching activities, techniques, and materials for one of the building blocks of early child literacy. This collection of resources is designed to help teachers, parents, and caregivers teach a child how to read.

Photo: stockimages


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