The contributions and limits of phonological awareness in learning to read

Authored by: Ulla Richardson , Lea Nieminen

The Routledge International Handbook of early Literacy Education

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138787889
eBook ISBN: 9781315766027
Adobe ISBN: 9781317659204


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In this chapter, we describe the role of phonological awareness in learning to read and how it varies in different alphabetic orthographies. We provide an overview of the concept of phonological awareness and how it is typically assessed while pointing out the contributions as well as the limitations connected to phonological awareness in learning to read. In addition, we provide a practical example in which phonological awareness plays a role by presenting evidence of the effectiveness of an instructional method in which the relationship between the phonology and orthography of a particular target language is taken into account in designing an instructional digital training tool for learners of varying skill levels. Taken together, the evidence points towards a significant predictive power of phonological awareness in reading skills in alphabetic orthographies. This facilitates important early identification of children at risk for reading difficulties and thus provides the basis for targeted treatment in which phonological awareness plays a role. However, the degree of importance of phonological awareness seems to be highly dependent on the type of connection spoken language has to its written language form.

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