The Building Blocks of Reading: Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

The Building Blocks of Reading: Phonological and Phonemic Awareness | This Reading Mama

The Building Blocks of Reading: Phonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness.

Have you ever heard these terms or wondered what they mean?

Phonological Awareness is a broad term. It refers to the awareness of sounds in a word. A child with phonological awareness can identify and create rhyming words, count syllables in a word, or (on the smallest level) identify and manipulate individual sounds in a word.

Phonemic Awareness fits under the umbrella of phonological awareness. It is an awareness of the smallest units of sound (or phonemes) in a word. For example, a child with phonemic awareness could hear that the word bat has the sounds:  /b/  /a/  /t/. A child with keen phonemic awareness could change /h/ at the beginning of hat to /c/ and know that now, it’s the word cat.

Phonological and phonemic awareness activities are things your child can do with their eyes shut.  They only need their ear as they identify and manipulate sounds within words. The visual letters are not needed. {By the way, when you add letters to the mix, it’s now called “phonics”.}

The Two Best Predictors in Learning to Read

If  you were asked to pick from this list what the two best predictors of success in learning to read were, which two would you pick?

  • phonemic awareness
  • IQ of child
  • Father’s SES
  • vocabulary
  • parents read to child
  • knows letter names
  • child attends preschool
  • age of child
  • parents read in their spare time
  • sex of child

Since we’re focused on phonological and phonemic awareness, you probably already guessed that phonemic awareness was one. According to Share, et. al in Sources of Individual Differences in Reading Acquisition from The Journal of Educational Psychology, they are phonemic awareness and knows letter names.

Studies over many years have shown that children who possess high levels of phonemic awareness before beginning to read do better at reading than children with low levels of this skill. Phonemic awareness has been shown to be a more potent predictor of reading success than intelligence, vocabulary, or listening comprehension.

-Learning to Read: Beyond Phonics and Whole Language by Thompson & Thompson

So, now that we know what phonological and phonemic awareness are and that they are the building blocks of reading, I want to spend a few days putting some “meat on the bones”, if you please.  What things can we do to model them? What kinds of texts foster phonemic awareness?  And in the end of this series, I have a surprise for you that I am very excited about!  I hope you’ll follow me as we explore it together.

More Links in the 7 Days of Phonological and Phonemic Awareness:


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  1. I look forward to your posts. I’m a huge phonological awareness and phonemic awareness fan! These ARE very important skills.

    • Thanks, Michelle. I’d love for you to share some of your links in your comments. I did use a few of your links, but the idea of linking up every day sent me over the edge…:)

  2. WOW! This looks amazing Becky! So much great information in one post! I can’t wait to see what you write next!

  3. shrukar says:

    Hello Becky,thank you for putting such a wonderful post, this is what i have made it so easy to understand to try it out(since english is not my first language i don’t even know these concepts).Your blogs are helping me in understanding these concepts better.Thanks a lot.


  1. […] processing at a phonological level (i.e. rhyming, blending or segmenting sounds or phonemes in […]

  2. […] phonemic awareness- an awareness of sounds in words […]

  3. […] The ability to hear, blend, and break apart sounds in words is a huge building block included in the foundation of both reading and writing. To increase the awareness of these sounds, there a simple sound games kids can play. When creating sound games, we want to include activities such as counting syllables, recognizing and creating rhyming words, and listening for the individual sounds in words. There are two terms used when playing with sounds: 1-phonological awareness and 2-phonemic awareness. These two terms are related and both focus on the child’s ability to hear sounds, whether large or small, in words. You can read more about these in my 7 days series. […]

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