Studies that have attempted to accelerate learning through early phonics training have shown no effects (Snow et al., 1998); in fact, evidence suggests that such training, without a firm understanding of phonemic awareness, may be detrimental to remembering words and learning to spell.
Recent reviews and analyses (Dickinson et al., 2003; Scarborough, 2001) have placed phonological awareness as a critical part of a complex braid of language abilities which include strands of phonology, semantics, syntax, pragmatics, and discourse.
I.1 The Critical Dimensions of Language and Literacy in Early Childhood Language.
Verbal abilities are consistently the best predictors of later reading achievement (Scarborough, 2001).
Phonological awareness and phonemic awareness are meta-linguistic abilities (Adams, 1990).
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Children must not only be able to recite and play with sound units, they must also develop an understanding that sound units map onto whole or parts of written language.Phonological awareness should not be confused with phonics.The term phonics, or decoding, assumes that children understand the phonemic composition of words, and the phoneme-grapheme (sound/letter) relationship.Typically developing children begin first to discriminate among units of language (i.e., phonological awareness), then within these units (i.e., phonemic awareness).Phonological awareness refers to the general ability to attend to the sounds of language as distinct from its meaning.Children with large vocabularies become attuned to these segments and acquire new words rapidly; children with smaller vocabularies may be limited to more global distinctions.Consequently, vocabulary size and vocabulary rate are important for lexical restructuring (i.e., making sound distinctions between words) (Goswami, 2001), and are strongly tied to the emergence of phonological awareness.Children also must develop code-related skills, an understanding that spoken words are composed of smaller elements of speech (phonological awareness); the idea that letters represent these sounds (the alphabetic principle), the many systematic correspondences between sounds and spellings, and a repertoire of highly familiar words that can be easily and automatically recognized (Mc Cardle & Chhabra, 2004; Mc Cardle, Scarborough, & Catts, 2001).But to attain a high level of skill, young children need opportunities to develop these strands, not in isolation, but interactively.In the following sections, we first review the important skills that are related to early language and literacy achievement.We then provide recommendations for updating ECRR workshops.