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What is phonological awareness?

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As my son is stepping into the very beginning reader phase, I want to continue to educate myself on what it means to develop early reading skills and phonological awareness. How best can I support his learning of language and reading? Doe she need to actually be reading or can I support him in other ways first?  What are all of these definitions? Is it possible to understand it all?

What is phonological awareness? HOW TO TEACH reading through speaking & listening

Throughout the next month, I will share various ways to orally teach your pre-reader, or beginning reader.  That is, without the use of letters!  Much of literacy learning is through listening and speaking! Your child can feel successful rhyming with you, separating words in sentences, clapping syllables, and listening to sounds in simple words long before they can sound out a word!

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness is the knowledge of sounds within language. It can be taught orally, without referencing the written alphabet or words.  Phonological awareness encompasses the ability to be aware of words, rhymes, syllables, onsets and rimes, as well as sounds. This provides the building blocks towards understanding that sounds and letters are connected into structures called words and it is the foundation for reading that will later come.

Phonological awareness includes the following skills:


  • the ability to rhyme,
  • hear, say, connect, generate rhyming words

Words and syllables

  • ability to distinguish between two similar sounding words: hat / had
  • ability to segment sentences into words
  • hear and distinguish syllables within a word
  • segment syllables within a word
  • understand that words can have one, two, or more syllables

Sounds {phonemes}

  • blend phonemes into syllables: cat – i – pil – lar
  • blend phonemes into words: c – a – t is cat
  • segment words into phonemes: hen is h – e – n
  • identify phonemes in the beginning, medial, and ending of words: c in cat, a in cat, t in cat
  • separate phonemes in the beginning, medial, and ending of words: cat is c – a – t
  • connect words from their beginning, ending, and middle sound: sit, sun / sit, bat / sit, kit
  • understand that an individual syllable begins with a sound (onset) and ends with a sound (rime)


  • and finally, phonological awareness work extends itself into phonics, that is, to understand that letters make sounds and those letters create words

Words are made up of various sound units and the understanding of these sounds, or phonemes, is phonological awareness.  When connecting sounds to letters, then it is incorporated into phonics learning. This teaches that letters make sounds in words.  All of the important skills listed before phonics all assist the learning to be able to grasp the letter-to-sound connection and become more confident in their abilities, so learning to read can be an enjoyable and satisfying experience.

what is phonological awareness

Teaching a love for reading

Above all, reading to your child daily will create phonological awareness.  Choosing books that rhyme or books that focus on one letter at a time, to begin recognizing that sound are very helpful and fun!  We recommend the Bob Books: Alphabet or AlphaTales.

Enjoy your time together.  Spend a day a week at the library.  Teaching them a love for reading will be the most important lesson they learn, and not how quickly they learn the rigors of the English language or phonetic rules.

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” ― Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook

How do you work with your child on their phonological knowledge at home or in the classroom?  

I’d love to hear your ideas!

This post is Post 1 of 10 in our Learning Language Series. See all of the posts, with Teaching Tools packed into each post, here:

  1. What is phonological awareness?
  2. Why is rhyming an important language skill? {free nursery rhyme printable}
  3. What is phonemic awareness?
  4. How can I help my child develop phonemic awareness?
  5. How can I teach onsets and rimes?
  6. What is the importance of counting syllables in words?
  7. How can I help my child create sentences and count words in sentences?
  8. How to create a solid vocabulary from infancy?
  9. What is phonics and how do we begin reading?
  10. How can I help my child grow in language learning before reading?

grab the free homeschool resource guide here!

A simple start to your homeschooling journey is closer than you think! Use these practical resources and tips to get started today! You don’t have to have everything figured out to get started!

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