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What is phonemic awareness?

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.

Phonemic awareness is the most advanced level of phonological awareness. It refers to a child’s awareness of the individual phonemes — the smallest units of sound — in spoken words, as well as the ability to manipulate those sounds.

Phonics instruction generally focuses on teaching children letter-sound correspondences. Since letters are not something that our brain can process automatically, phonics has to start by helping children identify sounds (called phonemes) in spoken language first. This is called phonemic awareness.

For example, /d/, /o/, and /g/ are the phonemes (sounds) in the word dog If we replace /d/ with /l/, we get log. Being able to identify each phoneme in a word and being able to manipulate it, e.g. by replacing it with another phoneme to get another word, builds phonemic awareness.

Deep Dive

Read our report on the Science of Reading. Research-based reading instruction must incorporate the 5 pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This report provides an easy to understand overview of each of these pillars and explains the important connection between how the brain learns to read (the Neuroscience of Reading) and how we teach children to read (The Science of Reading Instruction). It also explains why helping children build connections between letters and sounds, through phonics and phonemic awareness, is so crucial for the developing reading mind. This report is perfect for sharing with colleagues and friends!