Phonemic Awareness Activities to Support Struggling Readers

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One of the most critical human advancements is the creation of the written word. This being said, it is evident that one of the most essential skills for any human is the ability to read. Unfortunately, while most people can read, many struggle with this skill.

Recognizing this struggle is one of the first steps to ensuring that your child has a good foundation for reading skills. One way to ensure your child develops essential reading skills is through phonemic awareness activities.

These activities can turn things around for children with difficulty mastering reading skills. You can work with your children, as well as have their teachers work with them to ensure that they will be able to gain mastery over reading skills and comprehension.

Let’s look at phonemic awareness activities to support struggling readers.

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in the words we speak. But it goes beyond this to understand that words and syllables are actually sequences of speech sounds.

Phonemic awareness is essential to learning how to read in a system that uses alphabetic writing. This is because the letters represent sounds, otherwise known as phonemes.

If you don’t have phonemic awareness, you can’t make sense of the sounds. Therefore, you are unable to turn those sounds into words or stretch out the words to hear the individual sounds within the words. They can also not switch up the sounds in different parts of words to create new words.

If a child cannot hear the difference between certain words, they will have difficulties connecting those sounds to written symbols.

They will also have problems turning those sounds into written words. Therefore, phonemic awareness is essential when learning to read in a system that uses alphabetic writing.

Phonemic awareness can indicate whether a child will succeed in reading.

Why is Phonemic Awareness Important?

Phonemic awareness is essential for several reasons. First, it forces readers to see how each letter represents a sound. It gets children ready to read words in print. Also, it can help readers when trying to sound out new words and be able to read them.

It can also help people to understand how the alphabet works and that the letters in each word are represented by specific sounds. But it can be difficult for many. This is because while there are 26 letters in the alphabet, there are about 40 sounds in the English language.

There are 250 spellings for various sounds, and each sound unit is not always obvious. However, these are the sounds that must be learned and are the sounds that create words that are “co-articulated.” This means the words are not entirely and distinctly different from one another.

A child who has strong phonemic awareness will be a successful reader in the future. In fact, many children who struggle with reading tend to have problems with phonemic awareness. This includes children who have dyslexia.

Pre-Reading Skills to Practice with Your Children

Just because some children do not have phonemic awareness and struggle with reading, it doesn’t mean that they will never be able to be proficient readers. There are many things that parents can do to help their children to be proficient readers. This includes practicing what is known as pre-reading oral skills.

It’s Time to Rhyme

Once your children are old enough to speak, you can start playing rhyming games with them. First, say a word, and then ask your children to come up with words that rhyme with your word. For instance, if you say “cat,” see how many rhyming words they can think of, such as “hat” and “bat.”

Road Trip Rhyme Time

If you are out in the car, point out different things you see along your travels, and get your kids to come up with words that rhyme with these things. One example would be the word “street.”

How many words can they think of that rhyme? Not only is this a great way to help with phonemic awareness, but it will also help keep them from becoming bored on longer drives.

Phonemic Awareness Activities to Support Struggling Readers

Switch it Up

When playing the above rhyming games, switch things up once in a while. Instead of coming up with the first word and asking your children to come up with rhyming words.

Get them to name an object and ask you to come up with rhyming words. This will help them practice sounds, and it can become a fun game for all of you.

Teach Them Tongue Twisters

Silly tongue twisters and songs are loads of fun, and children love trying to wrap their mouths around the tongue twisters. This is also an excellent way to teach your children about the sounds in words. However, to be able to recite tongue twisters, they need to learn what the words sound like first.

Practice Alliteration (Tongue Ticklers)

Another fun learning technique is using tongue ticklers. This involves creating sentences that focus on the same sound repeatedly. In other words, almost every word in a sentence will begin with the same letter. So, for example, get them to say, “Barbara bakes the best banana bread.”

Play I Spy

Another fun way to practice sounds is by playing I spy games; you can do this anywhere. For example, you could say something to the tune of, “I spy with my little eye, something green that starts with T.”

Scavenge for Sounds

Pick a letter, and then make the sound. Then, have your children look for items around the home (or wherever you are) that start with the same letter. For instance, if you say to look for things that begin with the letter T, they can look for things like toys, toilet paper, taps, etc.

Where Does the Sound Come From?

Another fun game that helps children learn about sounds involves getting them to figure out different sounds in words. First, create a list of words, and then choose one of those words.

Next, pick a sound within the word, and ask your children where the sound belongs in the word (beginning, middle, or end).

Match Game

Here is an excellent use for all those magnetic letters that always end up stuck on your fridge.

First, spread the letters in front of your children. Then, make a letter sound, being sure to not add any additional sounds, just the letter sound. Then, get your children to pick up the letter that the sound is associated with.


Teachers may be required to teach children many things, but we as parents must ensure that the foundations are laid before they ever start school. The sooner you begin teaching your child phonemic awareness, the sooner they will read proficiently.

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