Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to segment and manipulate the sounds of oral language. It is not the same as phonics, which involves knowing how written letters relate to spoken sounds. Activities that develop phonemic awareness in children provide practice with rhyme and with beginning sounds and syllables.
Research has shown that a child’s awareness of the sounds of spoken words is a strong predictor of his or her later success in learning to read. Teachers of young children can encourage play with spoken language as part of a broader literacy program. Nursery rhymes, riddles, songs, poems, and read-aloud books that manipulate sounds are all effective vehicles.
It must be remembered, however, that phonemic awareness activities are not sufficient to produce good readers. Mandates that require teachers to dedicate specific amounts of time to phonemic awareness instruction could compromise other important aspects of the literacy curriculum. We strongly support a balanced approach to teaching reading—one that recognizes the importance of comprehension and enjoyment as much as discrete language skills.