How to Introduce Phonemic Awareness When Reading Bedtime Stories To Your Toddler

It is a known and researched fact that one of the best predictors of reading fluency in school is with development of phonemic awareness of young children. So how do you as the parent develop these skills in your child to help them get a head start on reading? You could wait till they get to school and hope that the teacher they have is very good at teaching reading or you could do something at home to develop these phonemic awareness skills and know that your child will perform well in school.

You really can’t indict the teacher if your child falls behind. The overcrowding of classrooms and the number of children coming to school without the basic phonemic skill set to start the reading process is close to 1/3 and depending on the school may even be higher than 50%!

Let’s start off by defining phonemic awareness. Phonics is breaking words down in print to logical parts. Phonemic awareness is actually the step before phonics as the child can identify phonemes by sound and put them into usable form. Phonemes are the smallest sound a letter has but is not the letter name. For example, /c/ /a/ /t/ are the sounds that make up the word “cat”.

It is important to note that phonemic awareness is not an innate ability,  it is more of a learned behavior through repeated exposure to reading, listening and speaking. Repeated exposure should not imply rote memorization, which is drilling and practice of a word without putting any meaning to it. As a parent you have a variety of strategies available to you to support your child’s phonemic awareness development such as oral blending and word segmentation games.

If you are like many parents, you take the time to read to your child a bedtime story to help them develop a love of reading. This is actually one of the best times to teach your child phonemic awareness strategies such as oral blending or word segmentation. The great part of these concepts is that you really don’t need to anything special but simply identify which words or sounds your want to focus on. The lessons become a part of the reading and are then embedded into the learning. Let’s look at an example with the “Jack and Jill” nursery rhyme.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

The easy way to implement oral blending and word segmenting is to take the key names JACK and JILL, or key words like HILL and PAIL; then focus on the consonant “j” sound for Jack and Jill; the consonant “h” sound for hill and the consonant “p” sound for pail.

By segmenting the sound you are now on the path to developing your child’s phonemic awareness skill set. You are putting meaning behind the sounds as they are connected to an interesting story and the child is more likely to keep those connections or learning points. Once the children get a grasp on what is expected of them, you can raise the bar to more difficult level of breaking down the words in the middle or end of the word.

The continuous exposure for your child creates meaningful learning experiences with word segmenting and oral blending that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.