Phonemic Awareness is defined as the ability to identify, hear, and work with the smallest units of sound known as phonemes. It is NOT the same as phonological awareness, instead, it is a sub-category of phonological awareness. For example, phonemic awareness is narrow, and deals only with phonemes and manipulating the individual sounds of words – such as /c/, /a/, and /t/ are the individual sounds that make up to form the word “cat”. Phonological awareness on the other hand, includes the phonemic awareness ability, and it also includes the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate larger units of sound such as rimes and onsets.
Phonemic awareness can be taught very early on, and will play a critical role in helping children learn to read and spell. While it’s not set in stone on when a child can learn to read, however, I do believe that a child that can speak is a child that can learn to read. Children as young as two years old can learn to read by developing phonemic awareness, and they can learn to read fluently.
Below are several of the most common phonemic awareness skills that are often practiced with students and young children:
Phonemic identity – being able to recognize common sounds in different words such as /p/ is the common sound for “pat”, “pick”, and “play”.
Phonemic isolation – being able to recognize the individual sounds of words such as /c/ is the beginning sound of “cat” and /t/ is the ending sound of “cat”.