Early Literacy in Your Homeschool

April 13, 2023
Written by:
Guest Author

Expert Interview on Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, and Phonics

Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman, Vice President of Early Literacy Impact at EVERFI, sat down with Marketing Specialist, Lilla Pellechi, to discuss phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics. Dr. Coleman is a speech-language pathologist who has spent the majority of her career entrenched in early literacy work, passionate about ensuring children have the tools and support they need to develop these early literacy skills. She discusses the interrelations amongst them, and gives detailed exercises on how to easily incorporate them with your child or loved ones on a daily basis, including information about a FREE online reading game called WORD Force, which has 15 games that incorporate phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension activities.

Lilla Pellechi: Can you tell us more about the difference between phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics?

Dr. Coleman: Phonological awareness is an umbrella term. It speaks to how we engage with speech sounds in spoken words, and how we use that information to create and share meaning. It’s a child’s or an individual’s ability to rhyme, to break spoken words into syllables, and to break spoken words down into individual sounds.

Once you start breaking down spoken words into speech sounds, then you’re talking about phonemic awareness. The relationship between phonological awareness and phonemic awareness is that phonemic awareness is the most advanced phonological awareness skill.Word Force Early Literacy Game

And for those who may not know, phonics is when a child learns to take the speech sounds that they learned in the spoken language realm as part of phonemic awareness practice and applies them to printed letters and words. This is also known as letter-sound association. Children use these skills to decode printed words, which is the pathway to learning to read words in connected text like what is seen in books.

Lilla Pellechi: Which is most important for young learners and building early literacy skills?

Dr. Coleman: Since they’re interrelated, they’re all very important. For our K-2 population, we know that they need to develop those speech sounds that map onto the alphabet letters. In addition, they also have to understand background knowledge, which comes through conversations they have with family, friends, teachers, and others about experiences they have in the world. As children are hearing about what’s in the world, they’re bringing that into their brains and forming the language in their brains that they use to understand and to speak. When children read and write, they pull on their background knowledge to understand and communicate meaning, respectively. So helping them build their spoken language and communication skills is important for them to become good readers and writers. Second, children need to be familiar with how to manage a book and how different parts of the book are used to support reading comprehension. When you look at a book, which way do you turn it? How do you open it? What does the title mean? How do the pictures relate to the words? Helping them understand these technical aspects, allows them to be able to facilitate their understanding when they read, and when other people read to them.

Early Literacy Resources and Takeaway Exercises

Practical Phonics help for your homeschool with WORD Force – FREE Reading Game

WORD Force is a digital literacy game for children ages 5-7, and it is a fun way for kids to practice literacy skills at home. The games are centered around phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, reading comprehension, and vocabulary development.

Sign up today with the WORD Force literacy game here and click “FAMILIES.”


A brief look into some of the games: 

Veggie Village: Kids get to use their letter/sound association skills to “fish” for letters that swim by and that match a specific speech sound they hear.

Raise a Rhyme: Children get to build homes each time they pick a rhyming pair of words. They love this game!

Sprouting Sounds: During this game, children have fun using their detective skills and phonological awareness abilities to find pictures of words that begin or end with a specific speech sound.

homeschool phonics game word force

Background Knowledge Takeaway Exercise

When a child is with their loved ones, explain what’s happening around them! Having these conversations, and making sure the kids can talk to you in their own language about what you said, is a great way to foster communication and early literacy skills.

Example 1 : If you’re cooking with a child, ask and discuss questions like: What are these utensils? Why did you put that in the microwave and not in the oven? What’s a stove? Why is it dangerous? What are we cooking? Where did we get the produce and where does produce grow?

Example 2: If you go to the zoo, ask and discuss questions like: What type of animal is it? Is it a mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish, or bird? How do two animals compare and differ? What is each animals’ natural habitat and how does it compare to your home and community environments?

Phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics are the beginning of opening a child’s world up to conventional literacy. These foundational skills are a part of the Big 5 (learn more about the Big 5 in Dr. Coleman’s article “7 Simple Tips to Boost Early Childhood Literacy”).  As we know, the way a child communicates becomes their door to not only developing conventional literacy skills, but ultimately becomes their foundation for academic and lifelong fulfillment.

Author: Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman and Lilla Pellechi


More Articles For Early Learners

How to Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills

Activities to Help Your Child’s Reading Comprehension

How to Know if Your Preschooler is Ready to Read