of external representation of the elusive phonemic structure of words. Thus, I do not question the pedagogical usefulness of letters in promoting phonemic awareness. However, more crucial than letters seems to be the explicit guidance of children when they are trying to access the elusive, abstract, and implicit segments of language.
In a later part of the investigation we followed the children over the first three school years. We found that the trained children entered first grade better prepared to work with the alphabetic system than the untrained children. They significantly outperformed the untrained children on a transfer test of phonemic awareness at the beginning of the first school year and on four successive assessments of reading and spelling ability over the next 3 years. Apparently, the early discovery of the phoneme as a basic combinatorial unit of language had given the trained children an initial advantage in learning to read and spell. This positive start also resulted in a long-term advantage.
The well-established relationship between phonemic awareness and progress in learning to read and spell has, in the light of the combined evidence from our longitudinal studies and training experiments, been interpreted as a causal relationship. We have also demonstrated the critical importance of direct, explicit teaching in the development of phonemic awareness. Rhyme recognition and superphonemic manipulations seem to develop more spontaneously in the daily life of most preschool children.
All the evidence that Morais refers to, including studies of illiterate adults, is actually in complete agreement with the findings presented here. Phonemic awareness is indeed hard to develop without explicit guidance. My only disagreement with him concerns his commitment to the alphabetic script as the only possible vehicle for accessing phonemes. To Morais, phonological awareness seems to be nothing but an integral and inseparable part of being able to read an alphabetic script. He then runs the risk that the arguments he presents may all boil down to the rather empty statement that those who cannot read, cannot read. I think I have presented evidence justifying the independent status of the concept of phonemic awareness.
Bradley L., & Bryant P. E. ( 1983). "Categorizing sounds and learning to read: A causal connection". Nature, 301, 419-421.
Bryant P. E., & Goswami U. ( 1987). "Beyond grapheme-phoneme correspondence". Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive, 7, 439-443.