As your kids get older, teaching them what they need to know becomes more of a juggling act. Instead of encouraging them to crawl or walk, they have to comprehend things like manners and more complex sentence structures. One of the most challenging issues parents find themselves facing is teaching their children how to read.
Reading can feel second-nature to adults, but it has to start at a basic level for kids. Although you might reach for flashcards or picture books, a great way to encourage your young ones to read at an early age is to teach them phonemic awareness.
If you’re not sure what that is, read on to learn everything a parent needs to know about phonemic awareness, including how it will help your child. Once you understand the core concepts and know how to teach it, your children will excel at reading from an early age.
Phonemic Awareness Definition
Reading makes sense once kids know how to break down words. This phenomenon happens long before they learn about compound verbs and suffixes. It starts by identifying something called a phoneme, which is a single unit sound that sets one word apart from another.
Anyone who didn’t receive phonemic awareness training as a child might find this confusing. Simply put, this is a child’s ability to hear, identify and use the sounds in words. It’s a way to map spoken words to printed ones, so kids know the difference between words before they see them on paper.
Why It’s Different Than Phonics
You may wonder how phonemic awareness is different than phonics. When you’re young, you learn more about phonics by identifying written vowels — A, E, I, O and U. Phonemic awareness teaches kids about individual letters through the sounds they make, without the assistance of visual aids.
Phonemes are units of sound attributed to every letter of the alphabet, not just vowels. Here are the main phonemic awareness concepts a child learns during this new method of teaching:
1. Educate Them About Syllables
When your child sounds out a word, they can clap along with you to hear the syllables. Syllables are a direct result of phonemes because if you change a single letter or pair of letters in a word, it changes the syllables.
2. Inform Kids About Rhyming
Children can also learn about rhyming through phonemic awareness. They’ll hear which letters make a pair of words rhyme and how that changes when a character is removed or added. Replace the “D” in “drum” with “st,” and you get “strum,” an entirely new word. If you use a “U” instead of an “A” in “cat,” you’ll get “cut.” They no longer rhyme because you changed a single phoneme.
3. Introduce Beginning Sounds
Phonemic awareness is also how kids learn about sounding out letters. “H” and “T” make entirely different sounds, which is impossible for young kids to tell when they focus only on writing the letters.
Try Easy Teaching Methods
Now that you know the three basic concepts of phonemic awareness, you can teach your kids with simple methods. Reading together is an excellent way to educate and bond at the same time. When you read a page with multiple rhyming words, point out how they sound and ask why they rhyme. The lesson is for your child to identify the letter that makes the rhyming possible.
While you read to your kids, you hone their focus and encourage daily mindfulness habits they’ll carry on through their childhood. Pairing phonemic awareness with mindfulness encourages balanced growth for your child’s education and mental health.
You can also connect sounds. Ask them to put together sound units like “D,” “O” “and “G.” Once your kid sounds out the letters, they’ll hear the word and learn to connect beginning sounds to build sentences.
Establish Their Phonemic Awareness
The key to establishing their phonemic awareness is to practice it every day. Doing this might add to your mom anxiety, which can be challenging to handle. After all, it’s another thing to cross off your daily to-do lists with what feels like high stakes if you miss a couple days in a row.
Before you start your new phonemic awareness habits with your family, take a deep breath. Whether you read with your children for a half-hour every night or point out sounds as you walk down the grocery store aisle together, it’s another step forward for their reading comprehension. This teaching method is flexible so you can do it anywhere, anytime. Moms with any schedule and lifestyle can incorporate lessons and help their kids understand more words at an earlier age.
Why Phonemic Awareness Matters
You might wonder why it’s important to sound out distinct letters to kids when it’s faster to teach definitions. When you put phonemic awareness into practice, children develop strong oral language and reading skills that help them in school and later in life. It gives them a concrete foundation for understanding any word, instead of introducing a few words at a time.
Start Teaching Today
Any parent can start teaching phonemic awareness today by sounding out letters in signs, conversations and books. Your kids will learn to do the same and put together words faster, leading to greater success during their school years and adult life.