Phonological Awareness: Implications for Prereading and Early Reading 2 Instruction
Benita A. Blachman Syracuse University
After reading the chapters presented in this volume, it would be hard to dispute the importance of phonological processes in the development of literacy -- an insight that Isabelle Liberman began to explore 20 years ago ( Liberman, 1971, 1983; Liberman & Shankweiler, 1985). The area of phonological processing that has received the most attention is phonological awareness-that is, an awareness of and ability to manipulate the phonological segments in words. It is these segments that are more or less represented in an alphabetic script. An abundance of evidence now exists to support the relationship between phonological awareness and reading success (for reviews see Blachman, 1984, 1989; Wagner, 1986; Wagner & Torgesen, 1987; Williams, 1986). Although phoneme awareness appears to play an important role in early reading and beyond, activities to increase phoneme awareness have rarely been incorporated into classrooms where beginning reading instruction takes place. Unfortunately, it sometimes appears that the more we learn from research, the less that research is reflected in actual classroom practice.
We now know that early problems in phonological awareness may be reflected in a child's inability to break the code, resulting in poor word recognition and spelling strategies. A child's experiences with failure in the early stages of reading can have negative consequences for years to come. These consequences have been carefully detailed by Stanovich ( 1986), beginning with the fact that the young poor reader is exposed to less print, practices less, and fails to develop automatic word recognition strategies. Failure to develop automatic word recognition strategies puts comprehension at risk, because limited cognitive resources must be used for word recognition rather than higher level comprehension processes ( Perfetti, 1985;