Tag Archives: phonological processing

(a) What specific skills form the foundation of children’s reading ability and reading comprehension and thus the basis for Early Literacy?

  1. Mommy reading to her son

    The foundation skills of emergent literacy consisting of phonological processing, print awareness and oral language skills have an influence on the learn-to-read process (Neuman & Dickinson 2003:12; Greaney & Arrow, 2012:11; Lonigan et al., 2000:596). Learners that learn to read by means of the foundation skills of emergent literacy are, according to the latter researchers, learners who learn to read earlier and better than learners who are not exposed to these foundation skills.

1.  Phonological processing

The first foundation skill of emergent literacy, phonological processing, is necessary for the ability to analyze words, thus to sound words. Poor phonological processing skills are characteristic of weak readers (Neuman & Dickinson, 2003:16; Lonigan et al., 2000:597).

Phonological processing can be divided into three subdivisions:

1.1 phonological sensitivity

1.2 phonological memory

1.3 phonological designation

Phonological sensitivity is an oral language skill that develops without exposure to print or letters. It is the ability to identify words that rhyme and to add or omit syllables or phonemes to form new words. It can be done orally through listening to a nursery rhyme repetitively and asking the learner which word for example rhymes with “wall”. By omitting the “w” a new word “all” is formed and by adding a “b” a new word “ball” is formed.

Humpty dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty dumpty had a great fall.

Threescore men and threescore more,

Could not repair Humpty as he was before. 

Phonological sensitivity to the child promotes the development of decoding words because of the letters in written language matching speech sounds (Neuman & Dickinson, 2003:15; Lonigan et al., 2000:597).

Phonological memory refers to short-term memory for verbal sound-based information and the immediate recalling thereof. Long sentences or several numbers must be repeated by the learner. This phonological memory skill enables the learner to maintain accurate association between a sound and an accompanying letter during decoding of that letter (Neuman & Dickinson, 2003:15).

Phonological designation refers to the effective recalling of phonological information from the permanent memory. Two types of phonological designation are used, namely isolated and successive. With isolated designation, the learner receives a card with a picture of a single object, for example a house. The time is measured from receiving the picture until the learner pronounces the word “home”. 

With the second type of phonological designation, successive designation, one needs to determine how quickly the child can name a series of pictures.

Efficiency in phonological designation may affect the ease with which learners recall and analyze phonological information in letters, parts of words and whole words (Neuman & Dickinson, 2003:15).

The second and third foundation skill of emergent literacy, Print awareness and Oral language skills, will be discussed in the following two articles on Reading Savvy.


Greaney, K. & Arrow, A. 2012. Phonological-based assessment and teaching within a first year reading program in New Zealand. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 35 (1):9-32. 

Lonigan, C. J., Burgess, S. R. & Anthony, J. L. 2000. Development of emergent literacy and early reading skills in preschool children: Evidence from a latent-variable longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 36:596-613. 

Neuman, S. B. & Dickinson, D. K. 2003. Emergent literacy: Development from prereaders to readers. In: G. J. Whitehurst., C. J. Lonigan (reds.). Handbook of Early Literacy Research. New York: The Guilford Press. 1