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Impact of Phonological Skills on Literacy Development

Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

What skills must be developed for a child to learn to read? This lesson focuses on the impact of phonological awareness on literacy development and why even seemingly simple activities are so important.

Learning to Read

Do you remember how exactly you learned to read? For most of us, it was so long ago, we simply don't recall the effort and skills that were involved. This lesson will review the basics of core phonological skills and discuss why they are so crucial to literacy development.

Phonological Awareness

Let's try to imagine a time before you could read the words on this page as easily as you do now. How do you think you began to differentiate the sounds of speech? One of the most basic ways is to notice how certain words rhyme, like the words ''sat,'' ''pat,'' and ''cat''.

Phonological awareness is the term used to describe a wide range of abilities connected to the sounds of speech. Phonological awareness is not focused on understanding what a word means. It's about the ability to work with the sounds of speech, such as when a child starts to realize that certain words rhyme or how sets of words have the same beginning sounds.

Phonemic Awareness

Within the broader category of phonological awareness is a very important subset of skills known as phonemic awareness. What's a phoneme, anyway? And how can you become aware of it? Before you learned to read, you may not have been fully aware that each word actually is a combination of smaller sounds. By breaking down into its tiniest elements, and by isolating each of these smaller sounds, you will determine that word's phonemes, such as the sound /p/ at the end of the word ''cap''.

A child learning to develop phonemic awareness might be asked to isolate the first, last, or middle sounds of a word, for example. As a child, someone could have asked you what sound starts the word, ''silly'', and if you could guess it's the /s/ sound, you would be right.

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