When children begin school, learning to read can be a fun but challenging task. To help set your child up for success in reading and writing, there is an important set of skills they first need to develop called phonological awareness skills.

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate, or “play” with, sounds within words. When children develop phonological awareness skills, it means they are beginning to understand that spoken language and words are made up of individual sounds. Children typically start developing these skills in their preschool years. However, learning these skills is beneficial at any age.

Phonological Awareness Skills

Phonological awareness skills include the following: 

  • Recognising when words rhyme and coming up with words that rhyme (“What rhymes with dog?”)

  • Segmenting words in sentences (“Clap for each word you hear in the sentence “I like to play games.”)

  • Identifying words with the same beginning or ending sound (“Do fish and fan start with the same sound?”)

  • Blending syllables (“I am going to say parts of a word. Tell me what the word is. ‘pen-cil.’”)

  • Segmenting syllables (“Clap for each syllable you hear in the word ‘pine-app-le.’”)

  • Deleting syllables (“Say the word ‘kitten.’ Now say it without saying ‘kit.’”)

  • Identifying sounds in words (“What sound do you hear at the beginning of ‘sock?’”)

  • Blending sounds (“Put these sounds together to make a word. “f-l-a-g.’”)

  • Segmenting sounds (“Tell me each sound you hear in the word “car.”)

  • Deleting sounds (“Say ‘cat.’ Now say it without the ‘c.’”)

  • Adding sounds (“Say ‘sit.’ Now say it with a ’s’ at the end.”)

  • Manipulating sounds (Change the ‘p’ in ‘pig’ to ‘d’ and say the new word.”)

Why does it matter?

Phonological awareness is key to children becoming strong readers and writers. By beginning to “play” with words and sounds, children learn to recognise patterns that they will later use to read and write words. 

Children who attend speech therapy for speech sound disorders (in particular) are at a higher risk for having difficulty with reading later on. So, while it is beneficial for all children to develop these skills, developing strong phonological awareness skills is extremely helpful for children with speech delays learning to read. 

Phonological awareness is often a predictor of a child’s future success in reading and writing. If an older child is having difficulty sounding out words and reading, targeting phonological skills is also critical to developing their ability to read. 

What can you do to help your child?

Phonological awareness skills are great to work on anywhere and anytime, because you don’t really need any materials! Here are some fun games to play to target phonological awareness:

  • Play hand-clapping games such as “Patty Cake” and “Miss Mary Mack.”

  • Draw a picture of a rhyme (“the dog sat on a log’).

  • Say words and ask your child to come up with rhyming words for them.

  • Name three words that rhyme and one that doesn’t. Ask your child which word doesn’t rhyme.

  • Clap out the words in a sentence (“The dog is playing.” Your child would clap four times.)

  • Match beginning sounds (You say “fish,” your child says a word that starts with “f.”)

  • Blend sounds (You say the sounds “h – o – t”, they say “hot.”)

Reading rhyming books is another great way to help your child develop these skills. These are some books that promote phonological awareness:

    • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

    • Possum Magic

    • Pig the Pug

    • The Wonky Donkey

    • Most Dr. Seuss books

By practising these skills, your child will be on their way to becoming a strong reader and writer! If you have questions or would like further help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Active Speech Pathology.


Clark 2014 https://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/ultimate-guide-phonological-awareness-pre-reading-skills/

Knobelauch https://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/172_PhonologicalAwareness.pdf