Phonological awareness is the ability to hear sounds that create spoken words. When a child is aware of the sounds in spoken or read words, they are better able to identify rhyming words, syllable patterns and recognize beginning sounds in different words. Storytelling gives children an opportunity to strengthen their phonological awareness and build upon it to later identify the letter sounds that they hear during the story.
Phonological awareness is also important for infants and toddlers as they are acquiring basic language skills, eventually repeating them and stringing them together in words and then sentences. Reading and talking to an infant or toddler is a critical activity which builds a foundation of spoken language skills. Reading a story in a monotone, boring, stressed-for-time sort of way will not benefit a child’s phonological awareness acquisition at all. Instead, it is important to use different tones of voice, an appropriate speed and ask questions as you go. Make the story come alive and stress certain letter sounds and words that are used frequently, even pausing to ask the child to repeat the word or say it along with you.
Some suggestions for reading to support phonological awareness:
Choose a story that is of proper length for your time frame, or be willing to break the story down into smaller chunks. The Polar Express may be slightly longer than your usual story, so it may be best to read it in two or three parts.
Be sure that children can hear you. Don’t shout, but don’t be too quiet either.
Set an appropriate pace so that children are able to follow along.
Ask questions of your audience to keep them engaged and invested in the story.
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