Phonemic Awareness and Its Importance for Academic Skills
Phonemic awareness is the ability to be aware of and use individual sounds, also known as phonemes, in spoken words. Phonemic awareness is crucial for developing fluent reading. Phonological awareness refers to the broader skill of recognizing and utilizing units or oral language. When a child attempts to learn to separate the word “cat” into three different sounds, phonemic awareness is required in order to say or speak the word. Phonemic awareness is an important ability that helps children with reading, reading comprehension, and spelling skills and abilities.
Among individuals with dyslexia, phonemic awareness is an area of much difficulty. In fact, phonemic awareness is a significant factor that indicates a child’s level of reading proficiency, as children who are better able to differentiate sounds and combine words have greater reading abilities and are better able to understand what they are reading (i.e., reading comprehension). These abilities directly influence overall academic achievement, as children with phonemic awareness are also better able to understand information in other subjects as well since the majority of academic tasks require reading and reading comprehension, especially as children get older.
Phonemic awareness contributes to another skill known as phonics, which is the manner in which letters and sounds are related. When a child can verbalize words they can use this skill to sound out and read printed words.
Problems with phonemic awareness in individuals with dyslexia can be explained at the neurological level, as the areas of the brain that represent speech sounds and higher level processing of speech sounds show areas of weakness among these individuals.
Research has shown that specific training of phonemic awareness to the advanced level is a necessary and important component for any effective treatment program for dyslexia.