Written by: Director of Early Learning, Cathy Bonnaventure, B. Ed., M. Sc., R. Psych.
As a parent of a daughter who started University this September, I find myself having the same thoughts and feelings as I had when she started kindergarten. Will she make friends? Will she enjoy what she is learning? Will she like her teachers? Will they like her? How well will she adjust to a new environment and large groups? How can I support her? Surely many other parents ask these same kinds of questions when their children enter school for the first time especially when it comes to helping their child learn to read.
Many parents believe that if their child knows the letters of the alphabet before they go to school, they will be off to a good start. While knowing the letters of the alphabet is one important prerequisite skill, scientific research tells us that just being able to name the letters and identify the sounds they make does not necessarily mean a child has one of the most critical skill they will need to have an easier time learning to learn to read and spell. Children need phonemic awareness. That is to be aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds or phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that makes a difference in the word’s meaning. For example, changing the first sound or phoneme in the word hat from /h/ to /p/ changes the word from hat to pat and so changes the meaning. A letter between slash marks shows the phoneme or sound that the letter represents and not the name of the letter. For example, the letter h represents the sound /h/.
Phonemic awareness is a term that is often misunderstood. One misunderstanding is the phonemic awareness and phonics are the same thing. Phonemic awareness is not phonics. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to make words. Phonic is the understanding that there is a predictable relationship between sounds and the letters that represent those words in written language.
Children can show us they have phonemic awareness in several ways:
While teachers use many of the activities above to build phonemic awareness, parents can support their child in learning phonemic awareness by doing any number of the following:
Ask your child’s teacher for more ideas. They have many they would love to share with you. While my daughter is now at the other side of grade school in, I fondly remember the days when I read to her and we sang nursery rhymes or played with the sounds in words. Although far from a perfect mother, I can say that I think we shared many fun times, laughter and jiggles doing these kinds of activities and I believe it has contributed to her love of books. This is a wish I have for all students.
Source: Foothills School Division