Phonological awareness refers to the phonological structure of words, such as sensitivity to rhyme and awareness of syllables. It is about hearing the sounds of the language, whether it’s the individual sounds in words, chunks of sounds in words, or words in sentences.
This becomes a problem because the individual sounds in words correlate with letters in our alphabet (the alphabetic principle), and if sounds in words are a struggle, then figuring out which letters correspond with which sounds is going to be an even bigger struggle. It severely impacts a child’s ability to read.
The positive is that phonological awareness can actually be taught. There are many activities that can be done to improve upon hearing the sounds in our language. Basic activities for young children, such as producing rhyming words and teaching them nursery rhymes, are valuable. For children who are learning to read, activities such as having them tell the sounds in a word, are helpful.
Phonological awareness training is most effective when paired with training in letter/sound relationships. In other words, activities for hearing sounds in words, along with the letters that make those sounds, is more effective than when just done on its own. To read more information about phonological awareness, click here.