Learn About Phonological Awareness

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Parents are children's first teachers.

Parents need to help young children move from spoken language to written language. Hearing, saying and playing with sounds in words and sentences are vital skills that parents can develop in pre-school children. This is called Phonological Awareness.

Most children learn to speak naturally and progressively. All children need to be taught to read, write and spell. One of the first and most important things a parent can do is to develop strong Phonological Awareness skills in their children. This is not hard to do – it is all about reading to your child and talking to them about words.

Words, letters and sentences are a mystery to young children. Parents need to show them what a word is. Children need to be able to hear and say rhyming words. They also need to be able to break words into syllables. Hearing beginning sounds in words that match are another skill to learn.

In my years of teaching I have noticed a change in young children's ability to learn to read. I really felt the need to write children's story books that are short, that target the skills of Phonological Awareness and that parents can use before they attend school. Getting ready to read is so important!

Rest assured, Phonological Awareness skills will be taught to your children, particularly in Kindergarten and in Year 1, both critical years for sound literacy learning. If your child's school is not teaching these skills then ask them why not??

I have also observed a trend in Year 2 where children who have learnt to read, start to struggle with longer texts and longer words. When I assess these children almost always the results show that they do not have the complete set of Phonological Awareness skills that they need to attack multi syllable and more complex words. They have learnt to read by remembering whole words (sight words) and they have excellent memories. They get by because they use their background knowledge and meaning to work out unknown words but they cannot break longer words down and decode them. They can start to get frustrated and disengage from reading and turn into what we call "reluctant readers". This is right at the time in their education where they need to move from 'learning to read' to 'reading to learn'. As we all know, reading is the key to all the subjects taught in schools including Mathematics.

Watching children 'struggle' at school is very hard, especially when it is preventable by teaching Phonological Awareness daily.

All children need strong Phonological Awareness. The good news is that it is easy to train them and for them to learn and use these skills. It does come easily to some children but not for others. If it is specifically taught to all children, then they will all be 'safe' from failing.

Of course, there are many reasons why a child may struggle to gain literacy skills. There is no one approach or 'cure' for learning difficulties. However, strong Phonological Awareness is an essential and critical first start for remediating any reading difficulties.

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