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Phonological Awareness, Literacy, and Speech Therapy

Have you ever thought about how many times a day you read something? Whether it is reading a menu, reading an exit sign, or reading the instructions on the back of a box, reading is incorporated into almost every one of our daily activities. The same is true for children in school. After they are expected to read fluently, reading is taken for granted in all of their tests, written assignments, and homework. For children who struggle with reading, this significantly increases the level of difficulty for any assignment they are expected to do in school.

How do reading skills overlap with speech and language? Children who are delayed with oral language skills may also struggle with written language skills. In addition, children with speech sound errors are more likely to struggle with reading as they may have difficulty with letter-sound correspondence, and word decoding skills, and a variety of phonological awareness skills.

Phonological awareness is an important piece in how children learn to read and write. It is defined as “the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of sentences and words” (Phonological and Phonemic Awareness | Reading Rockets, n.d.). These skills progress in difficulty from rhyming, counting syllables, segmenting compound words, to segmenting individual sounds in words, to manipulating and substituting sounds (for example, “if you take ball and change the /b/ to /t/, what word does it make?”) These skills are so important for recognizing how letters change the word, and also how speech sound substitutions can alter the meaning of a word (go versus dough, etc.).

Here are some simple ways to increase phonological awareness skills:

  • Play word games: if your child knows their letters, go around the house or a park and find everything you can that starts with a specific letter.
  • Point out rhyming words throughout the day – many children’s books or songs contain rhymes and children may enjoy pointing them out or saying the rhyming words in a silly voice. Explicitly show them how the ends of the words are the same, which is why they rhyme. See if they can come up with any additional rhyming words.
  • Play games with compound words, segmenting the parts of the words and making silly new words with them. Cow-boy, star-fish, etc. and then mixing and matching them to make silly words (cow-fish, star-boy, etc.).


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.-b). Written Language Disorders: Intervention Target Areas. https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/written-language-disorders/intervention-target-areas/

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