Phonemic awareness has been defined as the ability to deal unequivocally and segmentally with sound units which are smaller than the syllable. Phonemes are the tiniest elements that make up the spoken language. Phonemic awareness thus is the ability that enables an individual to focus on and manipulate these phonemes in spoken language (National Reading Panel (NRP), 2010). It has been established that the term phonemic awareness became popular in 1990s when researchers were attempting to study the development of early literacy and reading disability.
Having been defined as the ability of the language learner to manipulate the sounds of spoken words, phonemic awareness plays a crucial role in language development in children. This paper will explore the impacts of phonemic awareness on the child’s early development of reading and spelling skills. Phonemic skills: More often than not, the term phonemic awareness has been used interchangeably with phonological awareness.
However, the two terms are very distinct considering that phonemic awareness concentrates on the phonemes which are the smallest units that make up the speech whereas phonological awareness focuses on both the small and the larger units as well including the syllables, onsets, and rhymes. A child who possesses the phonemic awareness skills will be able to segment sounds in words for instance, they are able to recognize and identify a word from the separate sounds in the word (International Reading Organization, 1998).
Phonemic awareness can therefore be said to be the only aspect of reading that is highly crucial in children before they can start to learn reading. Phonemic awareness is therefore a pre-requisite for development of reading in children (Brummitt, 2007). Impacts of Phonemic Awareness: Phonemic awareness has great impacts on a child’s early development of reading and spelling skills. Phonemic skill like segmentation of words is very crucial in determining how the child will be able to master spoken language.
The amount of sound information that children can handle at a time will determine the ability of the children to learn the phonological skills in language. Studies have shown that phonemically aware children are more capable of reading words in prose with minimum mistakes than those who are phonemically unaware. Children are known to learn the spelling skills in two ways which includes internalization of the orthographic patterns of written words through imitation, and by synthesizing their understanding of letters and letter clusters with how the word is said in an analogy process.
Learning to spell unfamiliar words either by imitation or analogy with familiar words is usually “influenced by Knowledge of letter-sound mappings, the amount of complexity of orthographic information the kids can process, and their knowledge of word structures” (Munro, 2010, para 27). Definitely, there is a relationship between the awareness of sound segmentation in words and learning how to spell using the two techniques described above (Munro, 2010).
Conclusion: Phonemic awareness is a very essential aspect of language development in children during their development stages. Phonemic awareness can be responsible for positive development in IQ, vocabulary, listening, comprehension, and how well kids can learn to read, write, and spell. The children should also be able to express what is in their mind by the aid of phonemic awareness even when they had never seen the printed version of the word before. It is evident that by teaching the children how to manipulate the sounds in language improves their reading capabilities. In general, training in phonetic awareness positively impacts on the children’s language development in reading and spelling.