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Phonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness
In the last twenty years, volumes have been written about the correlation between phonological processing deficits and dyslexia. In the scientific community, many has reached consensus that most reading and spelling disabilities originate with a specific impairment of language processing, not with general visual-perceptual deficits, inability to construct meaning from context, or other more general problems with attention or memory.1
Phonological awareness is the understanding of different ways that oral language can be divided into smaller components and manipulated. Examples of phonological awareness tasks include:
It is said that phonemic awareness, a subset of phonological awareness, predicts reading ability. Share and Stanovich conclude that phonemic awareness is the “most important core and causal factor separating normal and disabled readers.”3 It is also said that phonemic awareness training will overcome dyslexia.
Margaret Moustafa at the California State University in Los Angeles, however, points out that correlation does not establish causation. “There is a strong correlation between, for example, being in a hospital bed and being sick, but being in a hospital bed doesn’t cause sickness, at least not the sickness that brought about the initial hospitalization. The word predicts is a statistical term which means there is a very strong correlation between two phenomena. Prediction does not mean causation.
“Research does not support phonemic awareness training,” says Moustafa. “Bus & van Ijzendoorn (1999) found that phonemic awareness in kindergarten accounts for 0.6 % of the total variance in reading achievement in the later primary years. Troia (1999) reviewed 39 phonemic awareness training studies and found no evidence to support phonemic awareness training in classroom instruction. Krashen (1990a, 1999b) conducted similar reviews and had similar findings. Taylor (1998) points out that phonemic awareness research is based on the false assumption that children’s early cognitive functions work from abstract exercises to meaningful activity, rather than vice-versa, as in other learning.
“In fact, rather than phonemic awareness being a pre-requisite to literacy, literacy contributes to phonemic awareness (Scholes, 1998; Treiman, 1983, 1985). We use our knowledge of how words are spelled to figure out how many phonemes are in a word. We are less competent in analyzing spoken words into phonemes when individual phonemes do not have a one-to-one correspondence with letters. For example, most literate adults do not realize that there are four phonemes — not three — in the word box. Phonemic awareness training is a cart-before-the-horse approach to teaching reading.”4