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The Importance of Reading to Children and Teaching Phonemic Awareness

The purpose of this post is to inform parents of monolingual and bilingual children about the benefits of teaching phonemic awareness and reading to their children. It also aims to provide strategies that parents can use to improve their children’s literacy in English, which are informed by academic research. The first research article Importance of phonological and orthographic skills for English reading and spelling: A comparison of monolingual and Mandarin-English bilingual children we will look at was conducted to better understand how children’s first language effects their learning of a second language. We will also consider how bilingual children of different ages acquire English literacy.

What was measured?

Australian and Singaporean monolingual English, and Mandarin speaking children, along with bilingual English/Mandarin speaking children were assessed in this study. Their nonverbal reasoning, vocabulary, phonological awareness and use of word structure knowledge were measured. Results from this study suggest that bilingual children rely heavily on phonemic awareness when learning to read while monolingual children also benefit from phonemic awareness (Yeong, 2014, p. 1116).

In a second peer reviewed research article Reading to young children: A head-start in life? researchers wanted to discern the importance of parents reading to their young children and how it effects early reading skills of their children. The research concluded that there are “better reading outcomes and higher cognitive skills for boys and girls who have been read to more often at age 4-5” (Kalb, van Ours, 2014, p.6).


At this point you may be asking yourself: ‘What good is all this research if I do not have the time to read to my children?’ Do what you can and make the most out of the time you do have. Here are some strategies that will do just that.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make reading fun. Never force your child to read, this may lead them to dislike reading all-together. If you are having trouble getting your child interested in reading, find out what they are interested in and get a book on that subject.

  2. Create the routine of reading books at bedtime. This will not only make reading every day a habit, but it will also give you an opportunity to show children your values and beliefs. It will also create opportunities for conversations that develop your child’s sense of who they are as a member of the family (Keim, 2011, p. 38).

  3. Read books that rhyme. Point out the ending sounds a pair of rhyming words make and ask what other words might rhyme with them.

  4. Ask your children to “help” you read a word you forgot, make sure it is something they are capable of blending. Help them by breaking the word up into its individual sounds. For example, C-A-T, cat.

  5. Ask your children what sound a word starts with or ends with. For example, “what sound does ball start with?” and, “what sound does ball end with?”

Want to know more? Read more about phonemic awareness from scholars at Auburn University in their article Making Friends With Phonemes and read The New York Times’s article How to Raise a Reader for an in-depth guide on the subject.


Kalb, G., & van Ours, J. C. (2014). Reading to young children: A head-start in life? Economics of Education Review, 40, 1–24.

Keim, R. E., & Jacobson, A. L. (Eds.). (2011). Wisdom for Parents: Key Ideas from Parent Educators. de Sitter Publications.

Yeong, S. H. M. (20140519). Importance of phonological and orthographic skills for English reading and spelling: A comparison of English monolingual and Mandarin-English bilingual children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1107.

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