Decoding involves translating printed words to sounds, or reading, and encoding is just the opposite; using individual sounds to build and write words.
In order to read and write, we must first become phonologically aware by acquiring the ability to understand that words are built from smaller sounds, or phonemes. This phonological awareness allows us to segment words into smaller sounds and, conversely, to build entire words from smaller sounds. When we learn to read, we start by making associations between each letter and its corresponding sound.
To master sound-symbol association, children must understand that there is a correspondence between letters and sounds. They must understand the visual to auditory relationship between letters and sounds (decoding/reading) as well as the auditory to visual relationship (encoding/writing) in order to read and write efficiently.
The Five Pillars of Reading stresses on the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics in building the foundations of literacy in young learners.
Read about Literacy Milestones.
Phonemic awareness refers to the knowledge and understanding that words are built from and can be broken apart into smaller segments of a sound called phonemes. Phonemic awareness is one’s ability to hear, recognize, and manipulate sounds heard in words- think of it as the ears to brain connection.
Phonemic awareness can be taught even before a child learns to read or identify printed letters. When babies are born, they are processing phonemes when parents speak and sing to their bundle of joy. In the English language, phonemic awareness means being able to identify its approximately 44 phonemes. Additionally, teaching letter sounds with letter names is an effective way for students to grasp the concept of phonemes.
Whereas phonemic awareness refers to one’s ability to recognize sounds or phonemes in words, phonics mastery means understanding that letters (graphemes or printed letters) of the alphabet represent sounds (phonemes)- think of it as the ears, eyes, and brain connection. A child who has mastered phonics can sound out new or unfamiliar words on their own. The child is “cracking the code” and is receiving feedback by listening to oneself sound out words.
Teaching phonics is all about establishing the relationship between sounds and printed letters or printed letter combinations. Starting with the printed letter-sound correspondence, a child then learns how to match sounds to letters and uses this relationship to understand printed words.
Sensory-cognitive skills such as phonemic awareness and symbol imagery are key in developing a child’s reading and spelling skills. Phonemic awareness refers to one’s ability to process sounds in a word, which helps a child read and spell by sounding out. However, the English language is not always phonetic, which is why many children have difficulties recognizing sight words and words that are not spelled according to their letter sounds. That is where symbol imagery comes in.
Symbol imagery involves both phonological and orthographic processing or the visual patterns of words. It refers to an individual’s ability to visualize letters and identify word patterns with their mind’s eye, allowing them to instantly recognize sight words because they have developed an extensive knowledge of them. This is crucial as reading fluency relies primarily on the mastery of sight words and contextual information.
Students with strong symbol imagery show no difficulties even when encountering new or unfamiliar words, can recognize letters or common words quickly, and can self-correct their errors. At Staten Island Letters, symbol imagery is one of the functions that we want to help strengthen in your child in order for them to become fluent readers and skilled spellers.
At Staten Island Letters, our reading specialists provide Orton-Gillingham and Wilson tutoring services to help your child master the underlying principles of phonological awareness and symbol imagery that they need in order to become skilled readers. We offer doorstep or at-home and online tutoring. Click here to get to know our literacy specialists and find out more about reading fluency tutoring services.
At Staten Island Letters, using an Orton-Gillingham approach to literacy, we can help your child to master the underlying principles of phonological awareness that they need in order to become skilled readers.