What is Phonological Awareness?


Phonological awareness is the ability to hear, recognize and play with the sounds in spoken language. Playing word games is a great way to introduce your child to this important pre-reading skill!


Phonological awareness—or the awareness of and ability to work with sounds in a spoken language—sets the stage for reading. Your child will begin to understand sounds in our language and learn how they relate to each other.

Here's how to get started:

  • Identify words that rhyme and play with sounds such as "at, bat, cat, fat, mat and rat."
  • Sing songs such as "Hickory, Dickory, Dock" or "Down By the Bay" to introduce your child to rhyming.
  • After singing along with different nursery rhymes, your child might begin to recognize rhyming words and may finish rhymes that you start. Encourage your child to finish a rhyme by saying: "One, two, buckle my ________" or "Peanut butter and jelly, that's what I like in my _________!" Your child may also enjoy starting rhymes for you to finish.
  • Clap the number of syllables in names or words (Mom-my, Dad-dy, E-liz-a- beth). You were likely taught to understand syllables as the “beats” of a word. This is a great way to help a child grasp that concept. Begin with simple words that your child is already familiar with, such as mommy, daddy or apple. As you play, show your child how to clap or stomp out the syllables of a word. For apple—clap or stomp out "ap" and "ple." Then count the syllables together: "ap-ple," "1-2."
  • Once your child understands the beats of words, you can make the games a little more challenging by mixing up the syllables and asking your child to figure out the word. What is cream ice? Ice cream! What is ball foot? Football! The more your child plays with words, the better he or she will become at separating, connecting and even rearranging the sounds of a word.
  • Introduce your child to words that begin with the same sound, such as dog, door and diaper. This game will help your child become more comfortable with letters and sounds. Encourage your child to repeat the sound at the beginning of the word that starts the game. For example, if you start the game with the "dog," ask your child to think of other words that begin with the "d" sound.

Enhancing your child's phonological awareness is easier than you think. Play word games, sing songs, recite nursery rhymes or read books to expose your child to spoken language. Children with strong phonological awareness skills are ready to become readers!

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