The Secret’s in the Sound – Phonological Awareness and the Preschooler


Photo courtesy of djeyewater.

Research has shown that the best indicator of future reading success isn’t naming letters, or learning to print one’s name (though both are important tasks) but phonological awareness.

This ability begins developing early, and is completely auditory and oral, meaning it is independent of print.  It has to do with hearing and manipulating the parts and individual sounds in words.  More simply put, it’s “playing with words”.

You may already be doing it with your child and not even realize it!  Check out some of these suggestions for more ideas for playing with words!

  • Story time is rhyme time.  Read rhyming books, poems, and nursery rhymes.  Once your child becomes familiar with them, pause before rhyming words to allow your child to fill in the missing word.
  • Go for silly talk.  Use nonsense rhyming words in a sentence and see if your child can understand what you mean.  (“Will you throw this wrapper in the bashcan?”)
  • Can you find the rhyme? Pick a word and come up with rhyming words together.  Remember that because phonemic awareness is a task of sounds, nonsense words are completely OK.  You can even make it a riddle.  (“I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with hat.  Do you know what it is?)
  • Motion for matches.  Say a pair of words and have your child clap/jump/blow a whistle/etc. whenever the pair rhymes.  Really play up the fact that you’re trying to trick them with pairs that don’t rhyme.  You can simply say the words, or use sets of picture cards made specifically for rhyming tasks to give the children a visual cue along with the spoken word.
  • Same starting sounds. Talk about beginning sounds, such as the beginning sound in a child’s name, and come up with other words that have the same beginning sound.
  • Solve the word mystery.  Say a word, separating the syllables as “clues” and ask what your “mystery word” was.  Beginning with compound words for this task is usually easiest.  (cow+boy=cowboy)  Then move on to individual syllables (jack+et=jacket), and finally to individual sounds (/s/+/a/+/d/=sad).
  • Surround sound.Immerse your children in language sounds.  Sing silly songs and fingerplays using rhyme and alliteration (search this blog to find some great examples).  Make your own rhymes together, create songs to sing about daily tasks, and use alliterations to name your creations (“This is my super silly spaceship to the stars!”).

Learning the letters of the alphabet and being surrounded by print, are important facets of reading readiness, but ultimately, the task of reading comes down to the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds.  The written symbols of print are meaningless until their sounds are understood.  So have some fun with the children you teach and love, and start playing with sounds!

Read more about building a Culture of Literacy here!



Filed under Article, Learning through Play and Experience

11 responses to “The Secret’s in the Sound – Phonological Awareness and the Preschooler

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