How Important is Phonemic Awareness?

What is phonemic awareness and how important is it when learning to read?

Phonemic awareness is the basis for learning phonics – it is the ability to identify individual sounds within words so that later on, the printed letters can be matched up with their proper sounds.

So phonemic awareness is not about asking children to name letters or know which letters represent which sounds – it is being aware of the sounds in spoken language.

There is some debate as to how important it is for children to have good phonemic awareness before being introduced to letters. General consensus is that whilst it is not a pre-requisite to learning to read, it is recognised that children who can hear phonemes in words and sound them out accurately are generally well prepared to make a good start in reading and writing.

Young children need to be given every opportunity for speaking and listening and lots of games to help develop phonemic awareness both before and whilst learning letter/sounds. This is an area where parents/carers can play such a vital role in their child’s development and give them the best preparation before formal phonics teaching begins in school.

• Tell stories as well as reading from books – this will encourage your child to listen.
• Play I-Spy
• Play lots of oral blending games –“It’s time for b-e-d”, “Could you go and fetch your c-oa-t”
• Sing lots of Nursery Rhymes
• Play rhyming word games such as rhyming bingo
• Play listening games

We have recently added some great new resources on for developing speaking and listening – visit the website to find out.

You might also like to know that is not only children that can have difficulty with oral blending, as this very funny YouTube video shows.

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