About Phonemic Awareness

From “Phonemic Awareness in Young Children” (Adams, Foorman, Lundberg, Beeler, 1998):

“Research shows that the very notion that spoken language is made up of sequences of little sounds does not come naturally or easily to human beings. The small units of speech that correspond to letters of an alphabetic writing system are called phonemes. Thus, the awareness that language is composed of these small sounds is termed phonemic awareness.

“Research indicates that, without direct instructional support, phonemic awareness eludes roughly 25 percent of middle-class first graders and substantially more of those who come from less literacy-rich backgrounds. Furthermore, these children evidence serious difficulty in learning to read and write (see Adams, 1990, for a review).

“Why is awareness of phonemes so difficult? The problem, in large measure, is that people do not attend to the sounds of phonemes as they produce or listen to speech. Instead, they process the phonemes automatically, directing their active attention to the meaning and force of the utterance as a whole.

“The challenge, therefore, is to find ways to get children to notice the phonemes, to discover their existence and separability. Fortunately, many of the activities involving rhyme, rhythm, listening, and sounds that have long been enjoyed by preschool-age children are ideally suited for this purpose. In fact, with this goal in mind, all such activities can be used effectively toward helping children develop phonemic awareness…

“A child’s level of phonemic awareness on entering school is widely held to be the strongest single determinant of the success that she or he will experience in learning to read — or, conversely, the likelihood that she or he will fail (Adams, 1990; Stanovich, 1986). In fact, research clearly shows that phonemic awareness can be developed through instruction, and, furthermore, that doing so significantly accelerates children’s subsequent reading and writing achievement (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Blachman, Ball, Black, & Tangel, 1994; Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1991, 1993, 1995; Caslte, Riach, & Nicholson, 1994; Cunninghman, 1990; Lundberg et al., 1988; Wallach & Wallach, 1979; Williams, 1980).”


From “Phonemic Awareness Studies 1980’s” (Avis, Crittenden, Mcginnis, 2009):

The research of the 1980’s began to establish a sequence of phonemic awareness skills beginning with an awareness of rhyme, to differentiating initial and final consonant sounds, and culminating with the more difficult tasks of blending and segmenting sounds within words. Knowledge that the spoken word can be broken down into smaller units is a powerful determinant of reading acquisition (Juel et al., 1986). By the end of the 1980’s the research focused on the more advanced forms of phonemic awareness tasks, such as segmentation, and repeatedly proved to be highly predictive of future reading success in grades one and two (Ehri, 1987; Juel et al.; 1986, Stanovich, 1986). Researchers of this era concluded that in order for the most advanced levels of phonemic awareness to develop, the skills must be explicitly taught and that while phonemic awareness may not have a causal effect on reading, instruction of these skills has a positive long term affect.”


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