Q:

My daughter is working on phonemic awareness as part of her language arts block. What is phonemic awareness? How does it involve consonants and vowels? -- Confused

A:

Phonemic awareness is a broad skill that includes identifying and manipulating speech sounds in English. The sounds of the English language are grouped into one of 40 or more speech sounds, and all sounds will fall into one of two categories: either a consonant sound or a vowel sound. There are 25 consonant sounds and 15 vowel sounds.

If you are wondering what the difference is between a consonant sound and a vowel sound, it is the restriction of the flow of air when making the sound. Consonant sounds restrict the flow of air during production. For example, say "p," "f" or "t." However, when making a vowel sound, either long or short, the air flow is not restricted as you make the sounds "e," "a" or "o." Put your hands on your voice box and try saying a few consonant and vowel sounds, and you will be able to feel the difference.

Phonemic awareness is an essential skill that children need to have both to be ready to read and to become readers in the lower elementary grades. Children with this skill are able to rhyme words and to recognize words with the same initial sounds, like "bad," "back" and "ball."

Parents can help children develop phonemic awareness by reading books with rhymes to them and playing rhyming games. They can also ask them to identify words that begin with the same sound.