Early Literacy and Phonemic Awareness

The importance of phonemic awareness for a pre-reader or pre-writer. What that even is and how to teach your child at home.

Preschooler wearing suspenders deep in thought

Here is the next post by blog reader, Susanne. Susanne is a reading specialist and is writing a five-post series of posts on early literacy. Read her first post:




“The ability to hear and manipulate sounds (Fredricks,2001).” This is a skill that must develop before your child learns to read and write. When a child recognizes that words have distinct sounds and parts, they are developing phonemic awareness. It is hard to read and write if you don’t have the ability to hear, manipulate, and distinguish sound patterns in language.


  1. Word Level: A child must a group of sounds make a word. For example, sun-shine, makes the words sunshine when said together.
  2. Syllable Level: A child must also understand and identify various syllables within a word. For example, pic-nic, these two parts along do not comprise a word but together they form a meaningful word.
  3. Onset-Rime Level: A child must recognize that two or more words have similar sounding parts. An example of this is, hat and cat, because both of these words contain the -at sound.
  4. Phoneme Level: This is the most complex level because a child must identify and recognize that every word is comprised of separate units of sound. For example: the word frog has 4 phonemes /f/ /r/ /o/ /g/.

Phonemic Awareness at Home Pinnable Image


Word Level Activities:

(Age 3 year old and up)

  1. Blending: Using compound words, say the word in two parts with a pause in between. An example of this is sun—shine. Then ask your child to guess what the word is.
  2. Segmenting: Using compound words, say a compound word without a pause in between. Then ask, “Can you break the word _______ into two smaller words?” For Example: You ask them to break the word rainbow into two smaller words, rain—bow.
  3. Deleting: Using a compound word, give the whole word and ask the child to remove one of the units. For example: “Say sunshine. Now say sunshine without saying sun.” The child should respond “shine.”

Resource List: List of compound words

Syllable Level Activities:

(4 years old and up)

  1. Blending: Using a word with two syllables, say the word in two parts with a pause between the syllables. An example: “You put the parts together to make a whole word. Ready? Flow-er.” The child should say “flower.”
  2. Segmenting: Using a two syllable word ask the child to break the word into two parts. An example: “Let’s break the word tractor into two parts.” The child should say, “Trac- tor.”
  3. Deletion: Using a two syllable word, ask the child to say a word without on of its parts. An example: “Say wonder. Now say wonder without saying won.” The child should say “der.”

Resource List: Worksheets with words containing two syllables

Onset- Rime Activities:

(4 years old and up)

  1. Recognizing rhyme: Ask if two words rhyme. Example: “Do cat and hat rhyme?” yes. “Do dog and cat rhyme?” no.
  2. Generating rhyme: Ask “Can you tell me a word that rhymes with car?” star.
  3. Blending: Ask your child to blend the two parts of the rhyme together. C-at, f-ish, d-og.
  4. Deletion: Ask you child to not say part of the word. Example: “Say Street. Now Say Street without saying str.” -eet.

Resource List: One line rhyming dictionary

Phoneme Activities

(late 4 year old and up- This is a skill usually taught in Kindergarten.)

  1. Detection: Ask your child if he can hear a particular sound. Example: “Tell me if you can here a /t/ (say the sound not the letter name) if this word. Cat (yes), tip (yes), lip (no).”
  2. Blending: Ask your child to put the sounds together to make a real word. Start with words that are two letters then work your way up. Example: (Say each sound individually and slowly) /f/ /r/ /o/ /g/- frog.
  3. Segmenting: Ask your child to say each sound individually in the word. Start with words that are two letters then work your way up. Example: “What sounds do you hear in cat?” /c/ /a/ /t/
  4. Deletion: Ask your child to say a word without a sound. Example: “Can you say the word meet without the /t/ (say the letter sound not the letter name) sound? -me.

Book Resource List


6 thoughts on “Early Literacy and Phonemic Awareness”

  1. Interesting post. I have used Hooked on Phonics at home and it works really well. With that and what William (just turned 5) is learning in pre-K, he's making huge strides toward reading. Recently, we asked him to write 3-letter words (pop, dad, tap, etc.) and he did it no problem. And whenever he sees a word he doesn't recognize, he'll sound it out. We are definitely on the road to reading!

  2. Thanks everyone!Maureen, did you see my recent post on Bob books? You might really like them. Brayden loves them. I posted about it last Friday.

  3. My baby is 4 months old. We've had a night routine down for a while now. He goes to bed at 8:30, wakes once between 4 and 5 for a feeding, then wakes around 7:30 for the day. During the day I can't seem to get into a routine. He won't nap when I try to put him down. I've tried 1 hr after waking, I've tried 2, etc. He lays in his crib and screams! I should also mention that he sleeps in his crib at night with no problem at all. For some reason during the day he wants no part of it. He eventually ends up falling asleep on me or in the car seat, at no particular time. Just whenever it happens. He's obviously tired and definitely gets fussy throughout the day. I've been trying for a month, everyday to get him to nap in the crib. I'm frisyrated and don't know what to do.

    • I have some posts that can help you. One is "waking early from naps/won't fall asleep for naps." You should also look at the hierarchy posts. Do you think he could have reflux or gas pains? His night sleep is good, so I would try to figure out what is different with day and night for him. Different temps? Does he need black out blinds? Etc


Leave a Comment