Before children learn to read, they need to understand that words are made up of speech sound, or phonemes. For example, the word dog is made up of three phonemes /d/ /o/ /g/. This awareness—referred to as phonemic awareness—is essential to learning to read. In fact, phonemic awareness has been found to be the single strongest indicator for a child’s success at learning to read. Phonemic awareness is not only the recognition that words are made up of phonemes, it is also the ability to break a word down into individual phonemes, join phonemes together to create a word, replace a phoneme to create a new word, replicate a sound you hear, and find words with the same rhyme. You can help your child with phonemic awareness by reading books that rhyme (e.g., “Is Your Momma a Llama?” by Deborah Guarino), help children learn to identify words that start with the same beginning sound (e.g., “Alligators All Around: An Alphabet” by Maurice Sendak), or teach children that changing one phoneme makes a new word (e.g., “There’s a Wocket in my Pocket” by Dr. Seuss).
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