Which Skill Comes First in Good Reading Instruction?

When it comes to good reading instruction I often make the case for teaching students phonemic awareness BEFORE teaching phonics.


If you need a quick refresher about the difference between those confusing reading skills,  review the basics in Phonemes vs Phonemic Awareness vs Phonological Awareness and Why it Matters to You.  In short, phonemic awareness is all about the sounds that letters make.  Phonics connects those sounds with what the letters look like.


Photo of young children sitting on the floor in front of teacher presenting a book. Gray and orange background with text that reads Which Skill Comes First in Good Reading Instruction?


Reading Instruction is Changing for the Better – Maybe

I’m delighted to learn that progress has been made in kindergartens across the country.  Many now embrace, if they hadn’t already done so, the extreme importance of teaching phonemic awareness.


I recently read that some educators fear the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction, that we’re placing too much emphasis on phonemic awareness and not enough on phonics.  Their solution?  To proclaim we need to teach both at the same time.


Now, if classroom teachers and reading instructors who teach phonemic awareness never get around to teaching phonics then of course we need a solution, but I find that scenario highly unlikely.


True, SOME traditional learners will likely be able to handle learning phonemic awareness and phonics at the same time.  But why would we want to leave the other learners behind, as we have done in the past, as we are attempting to rectify now?


Good Reading Instruction for ALL Learners

Students who require reading intervention, especially dyslexic learners, almost always (in my experience) need additional help developing phonemic awareness.  Why, when it’s so easy to help ALL learners become strong readers in the early days, would we not want to do so?  Why would we wait until reading intervention is required before we teach this foundational reading skill, and teach it until mastery before moving on?


If you have a learner who struggles with reading, I do offer a fun and easy way to teach phonemic awareness.  While the 22 minute training video is not quite free, I think you can agree that the impact of learning to read is priceless!  Phonemic awareness is the first step.  Once phonemic awareness is strong, follow up with the multisensory reading program Letter Sounds Made Simple and watch your learner become the strong, confident reader we know they can be!