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The Best Predictor of Reading Success

Phonemic awareness is it a cause or consequence of reading acquisition?

There are some who argue that phonemic awareness is not necessary, and that it’s unnatural for children to learn before they begin reading. They see it as a consequence or happening after a child learns to read. However, contrary to these beliefs is significant classroom and reading research that does not support this view. From my own personal experience in teaching children to read for over 30 years I have found phonemic awareness to be an essential component when learning to read.

What exactly is phonemic awareness refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds or phonemes in spoken words.

There is overwhelming evidence that phonemic awareness is necessary for developing decoding skills in an alphabetic writing system such as English. In fact, phonemic awareness in early grades is one of the best predictors of future reading success.

Phonemic awareness requires readers to notice how letters represent sounds. It primes readers for print and gives readers a way to approach sounding out and reading new words. It also helps readers understand the alphabetic principle, that the letters in words are systematically represented by sounds.

The most compelling evidence for the importance of phonemic awareness stems from the research demonstrating that when children are taught phonemic awareness they are more likely to develop good word decoding skills and they develop those skills faster and earlier than children who are not taught to be aware of phonemes in spoken and written words.

Time and again, it’s proven that phonemic awareness instruction is reliable and a natural part of early reading instruction. Parents and teachers can use songs, tongue twisters, poetry, and games to help children develop phoneme awareness (Wren, 2015).

Here at Early Readers Academy, with the Bright Future Reading System, we bypass the teaching letters in isolation and instead, we jump to teaching phonemic awareness and letter sounds in context, more specifically in the context of real reading. The children learn to read faster while interacting in activities that develop phonemic awareness as well as decoding skills that engage them in auditory discrimination, segmenting, blending and learning about reading while playing with sound tiles and words. Not only are they learning to read, the program stimulates experimentation with language in a fun, playful way.

The National Reading Panel Report states, the level of phonemic awareness that children possess and acquire while learning to read and their knowledge of letter sounds are the two best predictors of how well they will learn to read during the first two years of reading instruction.

Researchers have found that children must understand that the sounds that are paired with the letters are the same as the sounds of speech they hear. In The Threads of Reading, the author states "For those of us who already know how to read and write, this realization seems very basic, almost transparent. Nevertheless, research shows that the very notion that spoken language is made up of sequences of these little sounds does not come naturally or easily to human beings” (Tankersley, 2003).

Now that you have the information, it's in your hands as a teacher, and as a parent to ensure that your child develops phonemic awareness. Not only is it foundational to reading, it is also a very powerful predictor of overall reading achievement and academic success.

Mary Printz aka Miss Mary is the co-founder of Early Readers Academy and Accelerated Potential Academy. She is an educational consultant, researcher, Reading Specialist and International speaker. Contact her at

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