Phonemic Awareness

One of the first steps in learning to read is developing strong phonemic awareness. Along with language, it’s the foundation of reading! To break the code for reading, a child MUST become aware that words can be broken down into smaller units of sounds (phonemes), and that it’s these sounds that the letters represent. Then they need to be able to manipulate these sounds. Research finding after research finding show that explicitly teaching phonemic awareness has a DIRECT and SIGNIFICANT impact on childrens’ reading. Yet this foundational skill is rarely taught SYSTEMATICALLY! Here are some helpful resources:

How to Teach Phonemic Awareness by offers some very practical teaching tips for parents on developing phonemic awareness.

The Measured Mom blogpost offers great free materials for parents on many different areas of reading! This link has materials focused on phonemic awareness.

Understood article gives a good summary of the three parts of early reading that often get confused: phonological awareness, phonemic awareness and phonics.


Read, Understand, Remember! blog gives an overview of common symptoms of poor comprehension. It explains a main underlying cause of comprehension difficulties. Comprehension skills can be taught and improved!

Albert Einstein said, “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.” We confuse checking for understanding with reading comprehension. But there’s an underlying process that each of us needs in order to comprehend. It’s a primary sensory connection in the brain, and it’s tied directly to language comprehension, language expression, and critical thinking. It’s called concept imagery and about 30% of the population struggles with it. But it can be taught very explicitley and systematically, so that the brain makes those new sensory connections needed to make those pictures for understanding! If you’d like my free, 10-page guide with information and activities, just fill out the form below:


A strong vocabulary supports, and is a predictor of, reading fluency, comprehension, and achievement. Readers who struggle with fluency and comprehension often have a weak vocabulary. It’s a “catch-22”: the fewer words one knows, the more difficult reading is. The more difficult reading is, the less a reader reads, and the fewer words the reader is exposed to. It’s a cycle that can be broken with explicit, meaningful vocabulary exposure and instruction. Think of three tiers of words. Tier 1 words are those basic words used most often such as school, hot, red, mother, cat, and house. Tier 2 words are “high-utility” words that students will need to understand in a variety of contexts, such as convenientgeneral, first, and many. Tier 3 words are technical words that readers will find in content study, like mantle, lava, and magma when studying volcanoes. One of the most effective and simple ways to teach the meaning of a word is the “Example/Non-Example” strategy. Younger children can start with describing and drawing pictures of what a word is (house for example), and what it is not. Older students can add definitions/non-definitions, then words that mean about the same or are opposite. This strategy has been proven to be very effective with struggling readers! Here are a few resources:

Vocabulary Building by Home Literacy Blueprint gives 10 great tips for parents to help teach vocabulary at home.

Understood article that describes through a slideshow, 7 strategies to help your child learn new vocabulary.