Last month, Read Naturally attended an early-learning conference to promote Funēmics, our phonemic awareness program. Many attendees were surprised to see us there. They expressed that early childhood educators should not be teaching reading to students before they’re ready. When we explained that Funēmics is a pre-reading curriculum that does not incorporate letters or written words, they were shocked. “But you’re a reading company,” they said.

These reactions illustrate a widespread misunderstanding about phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness doesn’t involve letters; it’s entirely focused on sounds. For this reason, the majority of children learn this skill in early childhood without being taught. As they hear and speak their native language, their brains process that strings of sounds can be broken into separate words and that different syllables and sounds make up words. Without even realizing it, most children have integrated phonemic awareness skills by the time they enter kindergarten. Students who have mastered these understandings about language are better prepared to make the connection between sounds and the letters used to represent those sounds in the printed word.

However, for a variety of reasons, from environmental factors to difficulties with auditory processing, about 25% of students do not enter kindergarten with a mastery of phonemic awareness. This puts them at a disadvantage when it comes time for reading instruction later on. Funēmics aims to address this disadvantage early, before the students fall behind in reading. In fact, providing phonemic awareness instruction to all young children can be beneficial, if done in a way that interests and intrigues them.

Funēmics features 59 research-based lessons, which last 15 to 20 minutes each. The program guides the children’s focus to the sounds of language with colorful art, not with letters or words. Children tap, clap, sing, and otherwise play with the rhythms and sounds of language. The lessons are fun, engaging, and developmentally appropriate for preschoolers and kindergartners. For struggling first- and second-grade students, Funēmics also provides intervention that seems like child’s play, instead of drill and practice.

As a reading company, we aim to address any and all challenges students face on their path to becoming literate. Phonemic awareness is a challenge for many early learners, and we believe Funēmics is the perfect solution. Click here to learn more about this program and to download a free sample, or visit our Q&A page for Frequently Asked Questions about Funēmics.