What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate units of sounds in spoken words. There are several aspects of phonological awareness. Some of these involve identifying the first sound or last sound in words, breaking down words into syllables or individual letter sounds, or putting together separate sounds to form words.

While phonological awareness comes naturally to most, individuals with dyslexia often show poor phonological awareness. Current research posits that individuals with dyslexia have difficulties processing spoken sounds. This in turn makes it difficult to connect letters to their corresponding sounds, as well as retain this knowledge in their memory. Hence, reading and writing become challenging tasks for individuals with dyslexia as they are unable to apply letter-sound correspondence rules to decode words that they come across.

With this in mind, how then do we help individuals with dyslexia improve their phonological awareness? Parents can work with their children on building up their phonological skills at home. Some strategies include:

  • Use phonological games to practice rhyming, deleting sounds in words, and blending sounds together with your child (refer to https://pbskids.org/games/rhyming/ and www.readingrockets.org/strategies/blending_games for examples).
  • Complete flashcard drills with your child. Show them a letter card and ask them to name the letter and its accompanying sound. Explicitly and gently correct them if they make an error, and have them repeat the letter name and sound again (e.g. Letter “a” makes the /a/ sound). Doing this activity repeatedly can help them reinforce their letter-sound knowledge. Printable flash cards of sight words can be found at tinyurl.com/sightwordsflashcards.
  • Engage your child in “I Spy” games with rhyming words (e.g. cat, rat, mat) or words that start with the same sounds (e.g. /k/, /r/, /m/).

In addition to working on phonological skills at home, individuals with dyslexia will benefit from attending specialist literacy intervention, such as the Main Literacy Programme at the DAS, that provides a structured and explicit curriculum for them to learn literacy strategies.