Sounding for Beginning Readers

Sounding for beginning readers must never be underestimated. We are talking about the sounding skills that children learn to tune their ears before they begin the formal learning of PHONICS. This skill, called Phonological Awareness, is the GREATEST predictor of reading and spelling success. Research has been telling us this for years but still some adults ignore the experts and fail to improve reading success.

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological Awareness is the ability to manipulate sounds. This means sounds without letters. It means tuning the ears so that a child is well prepared for learning the basic skills that underly reading. There is one basic step that is necessary before the sound skills begin, that is attention.


If a child has difficulty atttending there will be little chance of concentrating to learn the skills of Phonological Awareness.  So, the number one skill is to develop attention.  Attention is the ability or power to be able to concentrate mentally.  This requires sustained effort and some children have difficulty maintaining this focus. There are many areas of attention or listening that the child needs to develop, BUT firstly, how well does the child hear? If there is even a suspicion that hearing could be a problem, make certain that the child has a hearing check.  Often a physical problem underlies the difficulties of reading; and normally, it can be rectified with the right help.


What level of concentration is the child showing? In order to be totally alert, the child focuses on the activity at hand and not on other items in the environment.  There are many children who are placed in intervention and who shouldn’t be there, they should be in an attention skill program to improve alertness.


Discrimination is the ability to recognise the difference and the sameness in sounds.  As you can see, to be able to complete these tasks a child needs to have well developed underlying skills of alertness.  For a young child this is developed through discrimination of basic sounds that are heard in the home environment eg. being able to recognise the difference in the sound of an ambulance siren opposed to that of a fire engine.  For an older child being able to recognise the difference between the beginning sounds of bag and mug.  The question posed would be:

“Do bag and mug begin with the same sound?”

The concept of same and difference has to be taught before this exercise takes place.


Memory, in the area of listening, is the ability to remember what has been said. Once again, this requires effort, sustained effort of attention.  It is not only remembering what is said but being able to repeat it.  The child has to hold the information until asked a question.  At an early age this can be developed through reading and asking questions about the story when finished.  Retelling a story is a great way of developing this skill.


Being able to place information in order or in a pattern is called sequencing.  Clapping a pattern and then asking a child to repeat the pattern is a good example of this skill.  Remember that all of these skills are those that are developed through the ears, not the eyes.

Background Noise

Wow !!!  How many times have we heard children complain of background noise!!  The ability to block out irrelevant noise and concentrate on listening to a lesson being delivered needs lots of practice.


Is the child able to understand what he hears?


The ability to be able to connect a particular sound with its corresponding letter.


There are many home and school activities that support development in all of the above areas. These activities will be provided in the next blog.

Comment below and let me know what area you need the most support. It will help to focus the information that is provided on this site.

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