Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the ability to learn to read, regardless of intelligence or level of education. This difficulty with learning to read is the result of a difficulty to process the sounds of our language (phonological processing). Anthony & Francis (2005) highlight three skills needed to process the sounds of language: 1. to be able to store these sounds in our memory (phonological memory); 2. to be able to retrieve phonological codes from memory (phonological access) and 3. to be able to detect and be aware of those sounds within words that form our language (phonological awareness).
When a child has good phonological awareness, is able to distinguish the sounds of a word separating these sounds from the proper meaning of the word. Otherwise said, is able to conceive a word as the union of some specific sounds, whether these sounds are combined to form a word with a specific meaning. This capability allows children to read words whose meaning is not known and, therefore, read better.
Phonological awareness involves the ability to discern syllables, recognizing the smaller units within syllables (onset-rime units), and be aware of the individual sounds of the language, wich are the phonemes. Phonological awareness is also involved when we manipulate the sounds in of the words, such as substituting one sound for another to form a new word (tookies-cookies), adding and removing sounds from words and blending sounds together to make a new word (Yopp & Yopp 2009).
A good development of phonological awareness in pre-readers predicts later success in learning to read (Ziegler & Goswami, 2005).
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Anthony, J. L., & Francis, D. J. (2005). Development of Phonological Awareness. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(5), 255-259. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00376.x
Yopp, H. K., & Yopp, H. (2009). Phonological Awareness Is Child’s Play! Young Children, 64(1), 12.
Ziegler, J. C., & Goswami, U. (2005). Reading Acquisition, Developmental Dyslexia, and Skilled Reading Across Languages: A Psycholinguistic Grain Size Theory. Psychological Bulletin, 131(1), 3-29. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.131.1.3