Phonemic awareness is a conscious understanding of the structure of spoken language (Griffith & Olson, 1992). It is the ability to hear and manipulate the separate speech sounds in words (Hall & Moats, 1999). In alphabetic languages, phonemes are the basic sound units that are represented by letters (Learning First Alliance, 1998).
A kindergarten child who has phonemic awareness will be ready to talk about the sounds that letters represent, but a child who has not developed this concept will not understand that letters and spellings represent spoken sounds (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; Griffith & Olson, 1992). Explicit instruction should begin in kindergarten for children who do not demonstrate an understanding of phonemic awareness (Hall & Moats, 1999; Griffith & Olson, 1992; Lesiak, 1997 ).
The importance of phonemic awareness to the transition from emergent to conventional literacy cannot be ignored. Phonemic awareness also has been shown to be a significant correlate with later reading achievement scores (Griffith & Olson, 1992). It is not the only variable, however. Rich and varied literacy experiences for children also must accompany phonemic awareness.
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