Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness


learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPhonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success; however, many parents have no idea what it even is. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words without the association with specific letters. One way to think about phonemic awareness activities is that you should be able to do them in the dark. There is no need to read or use letters, just sounds.


Your child should begin to understand basic phonemic awareness concepts like rhyming and initial sounds around the age of three. As they advance in the understanding, most kids should master more complex skills like segmentation and substitution around the age of five or six.


Even older children will still need phonemic awareness skills like phoneme and syllable segmentation to read and spell more complex words. If your child struggles with phonemic awareness, it is very likely that they will have reading difficulties.


mosaic-booksHere are a few activities you can do to help your child develop phonemic awareness:


  • Rhyming games: ask your child to produce words that rhyme with ______. This is a great activity because you can do it anywhere. I often play this with my four-year-old while we drive to school. You can also increase the difficulty by making it a game for points where you take turns and whoever cannot come up with a rhyme loses.


  • Beginning, middle, and ending sounds: Knowing the first sound in a word is important to develop reading skills later. You can say a word and ask your child to repeat the first sound (important note, this is about sounds, NOT letters. If you say bird your child should say the /b/ sound, not the letter name b). You can repeat this activity with middle and ending sounds. If you are feeling ambitious you can also do initial sound sorts. You can purchase them online or you can create your own. Basically you find objects or pictures that have the same beginning sound. Your child would take two to four beginning sounds, mix them up, and sort them. You can also do this with middle and ending sounds for an extra challenge.


  • Segmenting and blending sounds: According to many experts, these are the most important phonemic awareness skills when it comes to reading development. Children must be able to stretch out sounds in words and put them back together. An easy way to do this is to say a word like cat and have your child tell you the sounds (important note, your child should say /k/ /a/ /t/ the sounds, not spell the word cat). You can also say the sounds in a word and ask your child to put it back together. Another way to practice is to use rubber bands. Have your child hold a rubber band on their thumbs and literally stretch the sounds in a word. Then they can put it back together by blending it into a word. You can also use blocks or other objects you have around the house. Line up the objects and say a word. Have your child pull down an object as they say each sound. The number of objects should match the number of sounds.


748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPracticing these phonemic awareness skills with your child will strengthen their understanding of the foundational elements of reading. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you might try some of these activities to see if they are able to do them.


If you child struggles with these activities or other phonemic awareness skills, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading professional. Without phonemic awareness skills, your child will always struggle with reading.


Our online tutoring program offers phonemic awareness support with each and every session. Our trained clinicians understand this foundation concept and can use it to help with reading and spelling at every level. If you want to learn more or need to know more about phonemic awareness, contact our office today.




Becky Welsch


Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Lower Your Standards

Lower Your Standards

I am a member of a couple different parenting groups on Facebook and I have become pretty close friends with many of the ladies (and few rogue gentlemen) in them. Lately, I have noticed a pretty common theme among the posts: moms who feel like they are not good enough. As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. All. The. Time. We compare ourselves to every other mom and our child to every other peer. I have been there. You see that mom with the perfectly styled hair, boots, size 4 skinny jeans, and designer purse leisurely strolling through the mall with her Abercrombie model in training tot.


Your kid doesn’t look this stylish all the time? That’s ok…

.Meanwhile, there I am, unwashed hair, dirty flip flops, I am not even going to mention what size yoga pants, and target purse crammed full of cheerios and diapers. My cutest accessory by far is the smiling baby that is strapped onto my body by a baby carrier that cost more than my entire outfit. My son is trailing behind me, begging for ice cream with his insane, uncombed hair and Disney Cars shirt because he will literally only wear something with a Disney character on it. No cute seer sucker shorts and polos for him. He rolls with a Lightning shirt and putrid smelling Mickey Crocs (side note, how do crocs start smelling SO bad SO fast?).

Actually, if I am being honest this is what my toddler usually looks like. I put a Disney shirt on for public appearances.

Actually, if I am being honest this is what my toddler usually looks like. I put a Disney shirt on for public appearances.

It is hard not to feel inadequate. Why can’t I be so skinny and fashionable? Why aren’t my children so well behaved?

Here is the problem moms, our expectations are too high. Living in a cyber-world of mommy blogs with perfectly coiffed moms who make everything from scratch, can their own fruit, create elaborate child crafts and activities, build fucking chicken coops, and never, ever yell doesn’t help. I will admit, I had expectations that were way too high when I first started staying at home. I thought that my job was the reason I never got any housework done or had time to go the gym. Turns out, it’s not. I am no more likely to have a clean house or work out than I was when I worked outside of the home full time. Staying home with kids is just as hard as working a 40 plus hour week and I do not have any extra time like I thought I would. Working and staying at home are hard and don’t leave very much room for free time.

So, this leaves me with a dilemma. I can either work myself to the bone and get everything done, or neglect my children so I can clean my house and check some Pinterest projects off of my to do list. However, I choose option three. Lowering my standards. Here are just a few ways that I suggest every mom lowers her standards and gives herself a little break:

  1. The house: I really thought I would be able to not only clean but also organize my house. I would have all sorts of time during nap time to get things done. Ha! My kids haven’t taken more than 45 minutes of concurrent nap time since I have been home. I manage to vacuum once a week and do the laundry. I never have time to put laundry away. But you know what, we are just going to wear it again anyway, it’s fine in the basket. No one is going to die because I don’t put my clothes away. If you come over and go through my closets or drawers, you will be appalled by the amount of junk in there. But, here’s a thought, stop snooping through my stuff. Also, if you drop by unexpectedly, I will probably pretend we aren’t home. Unless I really like you and don’t care if you see the Hot Wheels vs. Legos war zone that is my living room.

    This is what the inside of your closet looks like? Who cares? It's a closet...

    This is what the inside of your closet looks like? Who cares? It’s a closet…

  2. Appearance: I really thought I was going to be that mom who always looks put together. I even went out and bought cute stay at home clothes. I would wear a maxi skirt, cute colorful shorts, tank tops, and always, always shower. I would never look like a hot mess. Um, yea…. That is not how life is. When you are up 5 times between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am, you are not going to get up at 5:00 so you can shower and get ready unless you have to. Instead, I usually wear yoga pants, sometimes shorts, and most of the time I rub some baby powder in my hair to make it look presentable (I read somewhere that it works like dry shampoo. Not sure if that is true but it makes me feel better about myself). I usually also put on a sports bra and running shoes so people will think that I am on my way to or from (probably from) a workout. I wear my wedding ring if I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. If I am particularly hot mess-like, I don’t wear my wedding ring so that people don’t feel sorry for my husband.

    My face usually also looks exactly this insane as well...

    My face usually also looks exactly this insane as well…

  3. Fitness: Although I always have on workout clothes, I rarely (ok, never) have been working out. I really thought I would have time for the gym. I don’t. When I do have a few minutes to myself the last thing I want to do is go for a run or get on an elliptical. I know there are those of you out there who will tell me all about ways to make time. Don’t. I don’t want to hear it. I have greatly lowered my expectations here and am fine with a brisk walk to the park being my only workout for the day (ok, week).
  4. Dinner: I was so certain that work was what was holding me back from having the energy to make a nutritious, home cooked meal for my family. Turns out, parenting is just as exhausting. I do cook more but that is for financial reasons more than wanting to provide nutritious food for my family. My toddler doesn’t eat anything I make anyway so it’s totally fine to have chili cheese tater tots for dinner.

Of all the things I don’t expend my time and energy on, I do play with my kids, a lot. I am on the floor most of the day playing cars, blocks. Puzzles, and helping my daughter stand up 50,000 times. We go out to the Children’s Museum or zoo almost weekly, not because I am an awesome mom but because it gives me a little bit of time to relax and watch my 2 year old burn off energy. And we get awesome naps afterwards.

I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Even that mom with the built from scratch chicken coop and all organic garden is not perfect. I am so much happier since I have stopped trying to be perfect. Pick one or two things you care about, and then let the rest go. Oh, and if a blog makes you feel bad about yourself, stop reading it. And come read mine. Because you are guaranteed to feel better about yourself after reading about how much of a mess I am. Oh, and if you happen to see me out and about looking like a slob, humor me and ask how my workout was, even though you know that’s grease, not sweat, in my hair.

Letters To My Two Year Old: Dear Kylie

I am so excited to bring you my third guest author in the series, Kim. I love Kim’s letter because it really shows how our kiddos can help us overcome adversity and make us better people. I’ll let Kim introduce herself and her sweet baby girl.

Hello, I’m Kim!  I’m a fifth grade teacher currently on maternity leave, enjoying my time at home with my two year old, Kylie and my three month old, Andrew.  Kylie is hilarious, smart, athletic, and has an incredible sweet tooth.  When I ask her what she wants for breakfast, she excitedly exclaims, “I WANT CANDY!”  She is definitely my kid.  In the last six months, she endured a lot of changes, and she handled them all so gracefully, sort of.

In December, my husband quit his job and left home for the State Police Academy.  For 23 weeks, he was away all week without contact.  He came home on the weekends, basically to do laundry and study.

In March, we welcomed Andrew to our family.  This was also the time when Kylie started showing a lot of interest in the potty.  I thought to myself, I’m home, we have the time, let’s do it.  So we did!  Once we had a handle on potty training, we moved Kylie to her big girl bed in her new room.  I’m making all of this sound easy.  Each change was more difficult than the last, but Kylie was a rockstar through it all.

I keep a journal in my nightstand for Kylie telling her what we’ve been up to and basically how awesome she is.  I write her a letter four or five times a year, or whenever I get the chance.  Here is my letter to Kylie about this crazy and tough time in our lives.  I couldn’t have survived it without her.


Dear Kylie,

Hooray!  Daddy is now a State Trooper!!  But YOU, Kylie Grace, are the real trooper.

The week Daddy left for the Academy, I cried every night while I rocked you to sleep.  I don’t know why.  I was pregnant, so it was probably hormones, but I was so afraid that you’d miss him.  You didn’t notice that I was sad, and I’m pretty sure you didn’t even notice he was gone.  On Friday nights, you’d say, “Daddy’s home!!!” and we would proceed with our Friday night dance party like he had been there all the time, Daddy on the guitar, and you on the microphone singing Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time.”

The day Andrew was born, you came to the hospital with Nana and Papa.  You welcomed him by putting stickers all over his blanket.  At first you weren’t impressed at all, but over the last few months, you’ve become a great big sister.  First thing in the morning you look for him and ask, “Where’s Andrew?  Let’s find him!”  You rub his head gently, you tickle his belly, and when you want me all to yourself you point your little finger at me and demand, “Put Andrew bed!”  Just last week, you thought Andrew was hungry, so you let him suck on your big toe.  He thought it was awesome!  I was horrified.

Right after Andrew was born, we started potty training, which all of the parenting books tell you NOT to do.  I now know why.  You peed on every square inch of the house and you were afraid to poop.  You’d scream and run in circles like a dog until finally, a big poop fell out of your bum where ever you happened to be standing.  You even pooped while running!  I didn’t even know that was possible!  t thought it would never get better, but we trudged through, and now when you poop on the potty, you can’t wait to sneak a peak at your prize and exclaim, “Oh, it’s just a little guy!”

After we mastered the potty, I moved you into your big girl bed. The first week, you looked at me with eyes filled with tears and begged to sleep in the crib.  I was heartbroken, but everyone told me it would get easier if we stuck with the bed.  And it did.  Now, when I tuck you in at night, you remind me, “Do not get up!”  And I say, “That’s right!  Don’t get up.”  Then you put your little hands on the back of my neck and pull my face to yours and you say softly, “I love you Momma.”  And I say, “I love you more.”

We survived.  I survived.  Because of you.

I love you more.

What about you? What are some difficult situations or changes that your kiddos have helped you through? How have they made you a better person?

Letters To My Two Year Old: Dear Ady

I am so excited to introduce my first guest author, Nicole Deskins! I’ll let her tell you a little bit about herself and then you can read her beautiful letter to her daughter. Also, please note that all images used in this post belong to Nicole and cannot be used without her permission (except of course the awesome gif of Kristen Wig drinking).


A little bit about me. I’m a stay at home mom to three beautiful little girls. Caidence is six, Adyson is two and Kinzley is 6 months. They are all crazy. I’m currently attending school for Medical Billing and Coding with an emphasis in Medical Terminology. I’m hoping to be certified by December and then reenter the work force. Some days I’m more ready to go back to work than others. Staying at home with my girls has proven to have a lot more challenges than I anticipated. It has also been the most amazing part of my life so far.

I love reading, writing and photography; even though I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like on the subjects. Well that’s all you’re going to get from me since at this very moment I have Kinzley squirming in my lap, Adyson yelling at me for juice and Caidence asking me all sorts of questions about this very project.

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I’ve enjoyed contributing to it. A  HUGE thank you to Becky for this wonderful opportunity.

-Nicole Deskins

My Ady Bug,

The day you were born was one of the greatest moments of my life. You were finally here after nearly two years of trying and 40 weeks and one day of pregnancy. Our family had finally seemed complete after your arrival. We were blissfully happy as a family of four.

Adyson Deskins-2

Fast-forward four weeks and I could paint you a totally different picture. Between your colic and acid reflux, I was one outfit change away from an emotional breakdown and one more inconsolable cry away from a bottle of vodka. Despite those rough six months, you have made it to the two year mark; one I wasn’t entirely sure we would reach with our sanity intact.

Kids can seriously drive you to drinking. Hold the glass please...

Kids can seriously drive you to drinking. Hold the glass please…

Now, you are the most “spirited” two year old I have ever met. You are smart and stubborn. Beautiful and wild. Mean and gentle. All of which, I’m sure, you will definitely work to your advantage. I swear you could be the next world leader or the next evil genius. I’m really hoping it’s the former.

Is this the face of an evil genius or world leader? What do you think?

Is this the face of an evil genius or world leader? What do you think?

Some days I’m ready to throw in the towel because you’re just too much to handle. Just as I’m ready to burst into tears because of all the temper tantrums, hitting and kicking, you find your way into my lap, give me a hug and a kiss and say, “I love you.” That’s it. That’s all it takes for all of my anger and frustration to vanish. It’s moments like those that I realize that no matter what you do or who you become, I will ALWAYS love you. With all of my heart and soul and without a shadow of a doubt.  Period. I Love You!

Love Forever and Always,


Letters To My Two Year Old: Dear W

This smile can hide a lot of devious intentions...

This smile can hide a lot of devious intentions…

I am so excited to announce that I am going to be running a series for the next few weeks called “Letters To My Two Year Old!” I have some amazing guest authors lined up. Everyone from bloggers, to amazing moms I have met online, to personal friends will be writing their thoughts to their favorite two year old monster (I mean, toddler).

I am creating this series for a couple of reasons. One being that two is a hard age (I hear three is worse, so don’t even tell me about that because I might start crying). Two is an age filled with tantrums, time outs, limit testing, hitting, biting, scratching. It is an age when your little darling suddenly turns into a rage filled beast. Sometimes I find myself going through old pictures of my son just to remind myself of how cute and precious he was. (Side note, this is a habit I got from my mom. Anytime you came home to find her with the photo album out, you knew you were in TROUBLE).

He really was precious, wasn' t he?

He really was precious, wasn’ t he?

Another reason is that, for as hard as two is, it is amazing. It is an age filled with discovery, adventures, new firsts, hugs, kisses, words, giggles, and games. I want to remember the beauty of this age. I may need it for reference when my son is a teenager.

I love watching him discover new things, like giraffes

I love watching him discover new things, like giraffes

And "snow."

And “snow.”

I am going to get things started with my letter to my little man.

Dear W,

There are plenty of letters and blogs dedicated to children that are about lessons and the important things in life. This is not one of those. Yes, I want you to dance, and sing, and find happiness. But those will come in time. Right now, I just want to remember a snap shot of your life from a few days ago.

It was a Thursday, in May.

Today was a tough day. It was a daycare day and you were angry about waking up. You thrashed, yelled, and threw things. You cried and clung to me when we got there. You only wanted daddy when I picked you up. You were mad at me and you were jealous of baby. You head butted her. You hit me. You threw a truck at me when I was feeding her. You were in time out twice in less than an hour. I tried to hug you but you pushed away.

At bedtime, you asked to get up. Against my better judgment, I let you. I am glad I did because that is when it happened. The perfect, small moment. We were sitting on the floor together. You were playing with your vinyl car “stickies.” I was helping you straighten them and rubbing your back. You looked at me, smiled and said “mommy.” In that moment, the stress of the morning disappeared. The tantrums were forgotten, the time outs a thing of the past. In that moment, I was complete. I love you. Forever and always.


What about you? What are some precious moments you want to remember?
If you would like to participate in the series, please contact me via my Facebook page.

Sensory Play for Lazy Moms

Yea, I didn't make this river habitat sensory bin. But if you like it, check out some other ideas from this mama at

Yea, I didn’t make this river habitat sensory bin. But if you like it, check out some other ideas from this mama at

Everyone who has small children and Pinterest has heard about sensory play. It is all the rage; meticulously planning activities to build your child’s awareness of the world around him using his five sense. And, whether we admit it or not, we all want to be that mom. You know the one, the mom who makes the most amazing sensory bins. The mom who uses 5 different colors of blue Jello to create a realistic ocean scene showing the zones of the sea and the continental plates under the ocean floor for her three year old to explore. The mom who puts together a farm bin using 17 different farm animals, a barn that is built to scale, and flowers that are actually scented. The mom who stays up at night making rainbow rice, cloud dough, oobleck, and mini-car washes out of balloons and streamers. But, alas, I am not that mom. And if you’re being honest, most of you aren’t either. But I don’t have to be and neither do you. All sensory play means is that your child is touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, or smelling something while playing (which based on this description means that pretty much any diaper change is sensory play for a toddler). You don’t have to create a fancy bin or activity that will be torn apart, ruined, and inevitably have its parts lost under your couch in less than 10 seconds. Here are some cheap and lazy ideas for fun sensory play.


1. Water Table. This has been the most valuable purchase I have ever made. I bought it for 30 bucks at Toys R Us and we use it almost daily (it helps that I live in Phoenix so water table season is January thru November). My two year old son loves the water table. He splashes in it and feels the cold water. He throws rocks in to hear the clunk on the bottom and see the water shoot up into the air.

He would throw rocks into this thing for literally hours.

He would throw rocks into this thing for literally hours.

The best part for me is that I only have to look up from Facebook every so often to talk about what he is seeing, hearing, and feeling.

Sometimes I get a little too engrossed in Facebook or caring for my other child, only to realize he has created the water table of danger. Love that you're taking initiave kid, but I am going to have to insist on less stakes.

Sometimes I get a little too engrossed in Facebook or caring for my other child, only to realize he has created the water table of danger. Love that you’re taking initiave  kid, but I am going to have to insist on less stakes.

I also will occasionally enjoy a beer on the patio while he is learning about the sensory world. Way better than making some elaborate dinosaur bin. Bonus points on some days because he licks a rock and we can talk about taste.

2. Play Doh. Every kid loves play doh and the stuff is super cheap. My son squishes it and sometimes tastes it (what kid doesn’t lick a little play doh?). It engages his sense of touch and taste. I talk about the colors and textures he is experiencing and I get to sit down for 10-20 minutes while he plays.

My kid totally looks this happy and upper middle class while he plays with play doh. He's not ususally in only a diaper....

My kid totally looks this happy and upper middle class while he plays with play doh. He’s not ususally in only a diaper….

3. The Park. This place is the mother-load of sensory play activities. Our current favorite is rock throwing (notice a theme?). My son loves to throw rocks against the grill and equipment at the park to hear the loud clang it makes. We talk about the sounds he hears and the textures of the rocks. He also loves to play in the sand which is another great activity for talking about sights and textures. And, just like in the back yard, we occasionally get to discuss what dirt tastes like. The best part for me is that I can do most of my narration from the park bench and have some time to check my Instagram feed.

He's having fun, I promise...

He’s having fun, I promise…

4. Sensory Baths. So, this is the only remotely “Pinteresty” idea on the list and it doesn’t involve throwing rocks or eating things you shouldn’t. The steps are simple. Start bath water, add food coloring, put child in tub, talk about colors and how the water feels. That is it. (Disclaimer, I have not yet stained my tub with this activity, but I can’t promise you won’t stain yours).

5. Beans and Noodles. For this activity, give your kid dry pasta, beans, and some various sized containers. Let him play. Word of caution, if you do this inside, be prepared to find beans and pasta noodles all over your house for a long time.

This took me two minutes to organize and he spent an hour playing with it. Win.

This took me two minutes to organize and he spent an hour playing with it. Win.

6. Go For a Walk. Go nowhere in particular. The goal isn’t to get somewhere, it is to explore. Let your little one touch plants, rocks, dirt, tree trunks, and sticks. Let them smell flowers. Point out lizards. Talk about the warmth of the sun or the chill of the wind. Enjoy some quiet, non-goal oriented time. Bonus points for mommy senses on this one. You get to have a heightened awareness of poisonous snakes, bugs, and speeding traffic. Moms need sensory play too.

Look mom! Keep your eyes and ears open!  Image from

Look mom! Keep your eyes and ears open!
Image from

There’s my list of easy, cheap, and lazy sensory activities to help your little one grow and help mommy get some downtime. You’ll notice most of them have dirt or water. You can’t go wrong with dirt and water.

And if all else fails, get your kid a traffic cone. Mine likes it better than Gymboree anyways.

And if all else fails, get your kid a traffic cone. Mine likes it better than Gymboree anyways.

What are your ideas for fun, sensory driven play?