Happy Cheetah Reading

The Steps to Reading: Phonemic Awareness (Step 1 of 5)

“Fish,” shown here in the Caldecott Honor book Alphabatics, has three phonemes

Children who have learned to read have the ability to translate symbols into sense.

“Reading” involves more skills than just identifying the sounds in a word. It’s a multi-layer process. Experts have identified five skills necessary for your children to read well.

So interesting to see what researchers has discovered!

The first step on the reading journey is phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear separate sounds in a word.

A “phoneme” (pronounced FOE neem) is a single sound in a language.

Phonemes are not the same as letters. English has 26 letters, but 44 sounds. Some letters make more than one sound: the letter s, for example, sounds one way at the end of ants, and another way at the end of as.

Some letters combine to make a sound: like how t and h combine into a diphthong to make the th sound in this (a vocalized sound) or the th in thin(an unvocalized sound). Or the c and h combine to make the ch sound in church, or the k sound in Christmas or the sh sound in champagne.

Once children recognize that words are made up of individual sounds — that the word cat has the sounds c, and a, and t — those children have phonemic awareness.

Children with auditory challenges or delays find this process difficult.

Phonemic awareness is the single biggest predictor of children learning to read.

If your children can’t hear the sounds in language, they are not going to be able to read.

Did you catch that? Your children need to be able to hear the sounds in a word in order to learn to read.

The Happy Cheetah Reading System includes several ingenious ways to help improve phonemic awareness, but until that program is available, you can help your children as you go about your day.

For some informal practice, you can ask, “How many sounds are in lap?” Then have your children tap or clap each sound. And if they can’t do it independently, then let them repeat after you, or do it with you.

“How many sounds are in stand? How many sounds are in fog?”

Just don’t forget that diphthongs are a single sound: chug and shop and thatall have three sounds, though they have four letters.

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