Phonemic AwarenessPhonemic awareness is the only aspect of reading that is essential for children to develop before they can begin learning to read. Based in oral language, phonemic awareness serves as not only the foundation for reading it is also the strongest indicator of a child’s potential for learning to read.What is Phonemic Awareness?Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made up of phonemes or individual units of sound that influence the meaning of the word. For example, the word “drum” is made up of four individual phonemes: /d/ /r/ /u/ /m/. If you change one of these notice how the meaning of the word changes. When /d/ is replaced by /st/ you have “strum”, a verb meaning to run an object (usually one’s fingers) across an object that makes sound. This is very different than “drum”.Phonemic awareness is not only the recognition that words are made up of small sound units it is also the ability to break down, manipulate and blend phonemes. A reader needs to be able to apply her understanding of phonemes in order to begin learning to read. She must be taught to transfer her knowledge of phonemes used in oral language to written language.Role of Phonemic Awareness in ReadingYoung children must come to reading with phonemic awareness. Research has found that this element of reading is the single strongest indicator for a child’s success at learning to read. While the reasons why phonemic awareness is a necessary pre-requisite to reading are not clear many researchers speculate that the understanding that phonemes are sequences of sounds in language makes children aware of how the alphabet works. In other words phonemic awareness helps children realize that words, regardless of their form (oral or print), are made up of sounds.**Phonemic awareness allows young readers to build another important element of reading: phonics. Phonics (the relationship between letters and sounds) builds upon phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness creates a bridge between spoken and written language. When a child understands and can manipulate sounds verbally, they are ready to transfer this knowledge to printed words.Impact of Phonemic Awareness on Reading AbilityBeyond serving as an indicator of a child’s ability to learn to read, phonemic awareness also impacts other elements of reading. Strong phonemic awareness when used to segment and blend words helps children increase their abilities to decode and comprehend what they are reading.A focus on phonemic awareness in reading education seems to have the greatest impact on very young readers. Instruction most benefits children in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and the beginning of first grade. At-risk readers should receive more intensive phonemic awareness instruction than their non-disabled peers.