The Importance of Developing Phonemic Awareness When Teaching Children To Read
Due to the research conducted on both whole language teaching methods and phonic teaching methods, more and more parents are learning of the advantages of using phonic methods and raising phonemic awareness as effective means to teach their children to read, as opposed to whole language methods.
These parents are rightfully concerned about the methods being used to instruct their children in reading. The previously mentioned whole language method works primarily through “word memorization,” which involves the child being taught to recognize entire words by sight and configuration, not unlike the way Chinese characters are meant to be read.
On the other hand, improving phonemic awareness teaches a child by showing him or her how words are broken down into individual sounds (phonemes). The child is then taught how to sound out whole words by joining these phonemes together.
This is the opposite of the whole language method, which does not sound out words. Instead, emphasis is placed on the meaning of the written text, and the meaning of each word should be determined through context clues.
The key for recognizing individual words through this method is memorization of the way they look. The whole language method requires that hundreds, even thousands of words should be memorized in order to be able to read them.
In contrast, the phonic method teaches reading as a system, where even unfamiliar words can be read using the same principle.
The English language and alphabet are not intended to produce words as shapes and pictures that should be memorized. The more shapes of words one has to remember in order to read, the harder it becomes to actually read.
Teaching children to read through phonics and improving phonemic awareness involves much less memorization, since the only thing that needs to be remembered are the twenty-six letters of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds.
Using this technique of teaching, even children at the age of two can learn how to read and understand what they are reading. If the whole language method is used, children tend to struggle with memorizing all the different words as shapes, while teaching through phonics produces successful readers with reliable regularity.
Some important points when it comes to teaching children to read
Plenty of evidence supports the claim that phonics is superior to whole language methods. In America, there are more than 30 million adults (14% of the population) who are counted as functionally illiterate, meaning that they cannot carry out even simple literacy activities.
 The statistics for adults is unsurprising in the light of the dismal rate of literacy in children; more than a third of children in the USA do not qualify for basic reading competency when they reach the fourth grade. This information comes from the NAEP, or National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Perhaps some people would presume that these children are performing poorly because of a native lack of intelligence, but its more likely that the fault lies in the method of instruction used to teach them how to read.
Thousands of studies have proven that improving phonemic awareness is the method that produces the best results when teaching children to read. In fact, the National Reading Panel has come out with a clear statement confirming these findings.
Many teachers might say that they use phonics in order to teach their students, but in truth, many of them don’t have a good grasp of the basics of the English language. This is a claim that is backed by research.
A recent study has stated this explicitly: “many in-service teachers are not knowledgeable in the basic concepts of the English language”. This study showed that although the teachers were familiar with children’s literature, they did not have a real grasp of the basic units of language and reading.
A survey of teachers was conducted, showing that these instructors performed badly when tested on concepts such as phonemes and morphemes. Another study was conducted, and 80% of the teachers involved stated that phonics was the preferred method for teaching beginners to read. 
A child who is taught using the whole language approach tends to look at all words based on their configurations, not on their individual units of sound. This means that a child is unlikely to learn the phonetic configuration of words.
A real reader who reads systemically through phonemic awareness does not need to rely on visual cues to help them remember how words are supposed to look – they can read out how the words are supposed to sound.
The final choice about which method should be used with their children lies with the parents.
They can leave the decision in the hands of the education system, and trust that their child won’t count as one of the 38% of fourth graders who cannot even achieve a basic reading level, or they can take matters into their own hands and develop their child’s skills in phonemic awareness before they even start with kindergarten. Studies conducted on phonemic awareness have repeatedly shown that it was a predicting factor of the performance of a child in reading and spelling at school.
Watch this video to learn how to use blends and chunks to make words:
Don’t leave your children’s reading success up to chance. Teaching children to read requires you to know what you are doing. Click here to learn about a simple, step-by-step teaching method that will catapult your child’s reading abilities – a learning process so simple, that even two year olds can learn to read.
2. J Learn Disabil. 2009 Sep-Oct;42(5):392-402. Epub 2009 Jun 19.
Why elementary teachers might be inadequately prepared to teach reading.
Joshi RM, Binks E, Hougen M, Dahlgren ME, Ocker-Dean E, Smith DL.
Texas A&M University, USA.