When and How to Help Struggling Readers Improve Phonemic Awareness

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, all your efforts to provide successful reading intervention fail.  You know, the kind of reading intervention that truly helps struggling readers read.  Maybe you already help improve phonemic awareness, but you don’t know why your reader continues to struggle.


If you work with a struggling reader at home or in class, consider one of the following potential reasons why some reading intervention fails.


  • The student’s phonemic awareness development isn’t considered at all.
  • The instructor only has a vague understanding of what phonemic awareness is, how to identify weakness in this area, or how to strengthen it.
  • Phonemic awareness strategies are included in reading intervention, but only as an afterthought.
  • Phonemic awareness strategies are provided at the same time as, or alternating between, phonics lessons.


If that last part is true, the instructor doesn’t (yet) have a firm grasp of the order of things.


Background in bright pink and bright orange. Title reads: When and How to Help Struggling Readers Improve Phonemic Awareness. Computer mockup with title slide that reads: Phonemic Awareness Reading Intervention Training and Strategy


Because I now have a phonemic awareness training video that you can access, I won’t go overboard with the details here.  If you’re a helper of a struggling reader, just know that phonemic awareness involves the sounds that letters make.  It does NOT involve letter names or even what letters look like.


Students must understand how to move sounds around before they can move letters around to make words.  When we train students to isolate and manipulate letter sounds, we help them strengthen phonemic awareness.  Most importantly, we provide this training first, before piling on anything that resembles phonics instruction.


An instructor who provides both phonemic awareness and phonics training concurrently isn’t honoring the fact that students can’t be expected to grasp phonics before grasping phonemic awareness.  As long as phonemic awareness is weak, any additional reading intervention will be inadequate.  It will not help struggling readers become the strongest readers they can be, not as long as we leave holes in their understanding of how to manipulate sounds.


For some students, phonemic awareness training is THE missing piece that makes all the difference is their ability to read.  If you’d like to gain a better understanding of phonemic awareness, learn what it is, how it differs from phonics, how to identify hidden challenges in this area, plus learn a powerful strategy that helps students overcome those challenges, please visit the store for a 22-minute training video.


Your future reader will be SO glad you did!