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Teaching Phonemics to a Young Reader

Teaching Phonemics to a Young Reader

Remember the old “Hooked on Phonics” commercials from the 1990s? It introduced many Americans to the correlation between the term “phonics” and reading.

While phonics may teach us about letters, syllables and words, its focus is on written language. We now know that phonemic awareness (often called phonological awareness), which focuses on spoken sounds, is even more crucial to build strong reading skills.

So now that you know what to focus on when teaching your child to read, here are some cool facts to help you further understand phonemics:

  1. Despite what you may have been told, reading skills are built on sound blending and segmenting, not letter recognition. In fact, studies show a 90 percent decrease in reading problems if children are first introduced to sound analysis activities.
  2. While there are 26 letters in the English language, there are 43 different sounds. These sounds are called phonemes. Examples of codes to represent these sounds include: /t/, /b/, /sh/, /ng/, /oo/ as in foot, /ie/ as in night, and /ar/as in farm. In the word “farm,” for example, /ar/ represents the vowel sound. You don’t pronounce the “a” separately from the “r.” They are one sound together.
  3. Phonics codes can also be used by different sounds. The code “ou” is used by the sounds /ou/ as in couch, /oo/ as in youth, /u/ as in touch, and /o-e/ as in boulder.
  4. In language, there are voiced and unvoiced sounds. Voiced sounds use the vocal chords, which you can feel working. Unvoiced sounds are created with the vocal chords opened so air goes right through them. Many consonant sounds come in pairs of voiced and unvoiced sounds that are produced in the same place in the mouth (with the tongue in the same position). Here are a few to test out for yourself with your hand on your throat.

Unvoiced P = Voiced B

Unvoiced F = Voiced V

Unvoiced T = Voiced D

Unvoiced S = Voiced Z

Unvoiced CH = Voiced J

  1. Rhyming is an easy way to work on sound analysis. It forces your child to dissect sounds. You can also play sound segmenting games with simple words like “cat.” Just ask your child to name the three distinct sounds (/c/ and /a/ and /t/) to help build their auditory segmenting skills.

Do you have a child who is struggling to read? Find out how LearningRx can help: