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Phonemic Awareness and Reading

What is phonemic awareness and how does it relate to learning to read? Why is this concept important to early childhood educators? What implications does this concept have for the best type of reading instructions? Include a brief discussion of "the phonics versus whole language" controversy.

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1. What is phonemic awareness and how does it relate to learning to read? Why is this concept important to early childhood educators? What implications does this concept have for the best type of reading instructions? Include a brief discussion of "the phonics versus whole language" controversy.

With little or no direct instruction, almost all young children develop the ability to understand spoken language. While most kindergarten children have mastered the complexities of speech, they do not know that spoken language is made up of discrete words, which are made up of syllables, which themselves are made up of the smallest units of sound, called "phonemes." This awareness that spoken language is made up of discrete sounds appears to be a crucial factor in children learning to read.

WHAT IS PHONOLOGICAL/PHONEME AWARENESS?

Operationalizing the concept of phonological or phoneme awareness is problematic. Stanovich (1993-94) defines "phonological awareness" as the ability to deal explicitly and segmentally with sound units smaller than the syllable." Noted by this author is that researchers "argue intensely" about the meaning of the term and about the nature of the tasks used to measure it.

See Harris and Hodges (1995), who present a brief essay on phonemic awareness. Another oft-cited source (Adams, 1990) uses "phonemic awareness" almost exclusively. Phonological awareness sometimes refers to an awareness that words consist of syllables, "onsets and rimes," and phonemes, and so can be considered as a broader notion than phonemic awareness. Each term is widely used and perhaps (if incorrectly) used interchangeably.

Adams (1990) describes 5 levels of phonemic awareness in terms of abilities:
* To hear rhymes and alliteration as measured by knowledge of nursery rhymes
* To do oddity tasks (comparing and contrasting the sounds of words for rhyme and alliteration)
* To blend ...

Solution Summary

This solution explains the relationship between phonemic awareness and reading through empirical evidence and implications for reading instructions. It also explores "the phonics versus whole language" controversy.

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