Phonemic awareness is the ability to distinguish the different sounds in a spoken word. For example, children must learn that the word sat is made up of three sounds: /s/, /a/, /t/. (A letter between slashes indicates the sound that letter stands for.) A high level of phonemic awareness makes learning to read easier and more successful. Instruction at this age focuses on hearing and distinguishing beginning sounds (/m/ in milk, monkey, and moon) and rhymes (/at/ in cat, rat, and bat).
Letter recognition is the ability to distinguish different letter shapes and know the correct name for each letter. Knowing the letters of the alphabet makes it easier to learn the sound each letter stands for. Instruction focuses on recognizing letters individually and in words as well as learning how to print letters, first uppercase and then lowercase.
Phonics instruction teaches children the relationship between letters and the sounds they stand for. For example, the letter m stands for the sound /m/ we hear at the beginning of the word mouse. Children who know phonics are able to sound out and read words with confidence and ease. Beginning phonics instruction focuses on learning each letter of the alphabet and the sound it stands for. This program builds these phonics and reading readiness skills in two ways. First, each class includes a formal phonics lesson using a workbook and audio program that children also use at home. Second, each class also includes phonemic awareness and letter recognition games that are fun and productive.
Children in the Reading Readiness program use a phonics workbook called Pole and Vole Stories, which features an engaging story with interesting characters and delightful illustrations. This workbook and its three accompanying CDs contain phonics instruction appropriate for four- and five-year-old children. Each week in class, students begin a lesson under the direction of the teacher. At home, they complete the lesson begun in class, plus one additional two-page lesson.