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The First Pillar of Reading - Phonemic Awareness

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the five pillars of reading, which are the components that should be included in any good reading curriculum. This week, it's time to delve more deeply into the first pillar: phonemic awareness.

At its heart, reading is based in sound. The letters we use to compose words, sentences, paragraphs, articles, books, etc., represent sounds in our language. While you may not be aware of it, there is a part of your brain that hears the words as you read them. If you don't know the sounds of your language, reading will be more challenging, which is why any good reading program should start with sounds.

We can learn to understand the sounds of our language long before we learn to read, through activities like nursery rhymes and songs. Remember that old song where you take someone's name and change the first letter (Hannah, Hannah, bo-banna, banana fanna fo-fanna...)? If you can sing that song, you probably have pretty good phonemic awareness.

Ideally, this is something that students will learn in kindergarten or even pre-school. Unfortunately, not all schools are aware of the importance of this foundational skill, so they may not spend the necessary time focusing on it, leaving students to (hopefully) figure it out on their own. Some will, but others need more explicit instruction to grasp the sounds of English.

Phonemic awareness can be likened to the foundation of a building. If it's not strong enough, the walls (word reading) are likely to crumble. There are lots of ways to help children build a strong foundation, and I'll share some with you in the coming weeks. For now, why not sit down and read a nursery rhyme together?

Please comment below with any questions you have about reading, and I'll try to answer them in a later post.

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