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Play And Development Of Phonological Skills Among Preschoolers In Public Early Childhood Education Centres In Rivers West Senatorial District Of Rivers State.


The study utilized experimental and descriptive approach to identify the impact of Play and development of phonological skills among pre-schoolers. Phonological Awareness is an applied linguistic term which refers to the ability to hear and manipulate the sound structure of language. It is an encompassing term that involves working with the sounds of language at the word, syllable, and phoneme level and contains many processes. The study is an attempt to identify the impact of Play and development of phonological skills among pre-schoolers . The sample consisted of (160) preschoolers, (80) males and (80) females. Phonological Awareness Skills Test and Cronbach Alpha Coefficient utilized to measure progress in four phonological awareness skills including word identification, word deletion, word blending and word rhyming while a reading passage. Pre- and post-Cloze Test applied to identify the reading levels of the participants. In addition, simple percentage and T- Test utilized to statically analyze the data. The results revealed that training on phonological awareness skills significantly improved the reading performance of the students in the experimental group.



1.1 Background to the study

Early childhood is a critical period for literacy development (Neuman, Copple, & Bredekamp, 1999; Shonkoff, 2000; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Emergent literacy skills are an important part of children’s early language development and are influenced long before children start formal instruction (Adams, 1990; Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; Hart & Risley, 1995). Children’s development of language during the preschool years is strongly related to how well they will later learn to read (Burns et al.). Without a solid foundation of literacy knowledge and skill, children will have a great deal of difficulty benefiting from the literacy instruction provided by their first grade teacher (Schickedanz, 1999). The importance of reading and early literacy was recently highlighted by Jacobson (1999) who determined that the difference between poor readers and normal readers became increasingly marked over time (years of school). Despite the experimental group’s receiving remedial therapy for their reading disability, Jacobson found that they continued to fall behind the control group, therefore, supporting a deficit model rather than a lag model. This deficit can further contribute to a continuing downward spiral. Scarborough, Dobrich, and Hager (1991) reported that children of parents with poor reading skills became poor readers in school because they were exposed to less reading and book experiences, whereas children of parents with normal reading ability became better readers in school. There is growing attention to the preschool educational curricula that our children are receiving. Most preschool curricula address the developmental domains, but research has shown that programs that fail to provide language, cognitive, and early reading instruction/activities do not support school readiness. Therefore, the importance of preventing, rather than remediating, these academic difficulties appears to be the most effective and efficient way to manage this growing educational concern (US Department of Education, 2002). Children who begin school behind in language, cognition, and early reading skills often do not “catch up”. They continue to lag behind their peers in these academic domains. Juel (1988) found that 87% of children who were poor readers at the end of the first grade remained poor readers at the end of the fourth grade. Ramey and Campbell (1991) found that reading failure can be reduced significantly with appropriate intervention in preschool, kindergarten, and first and second grades. There are many skills that must be acquired in order for children to become successful readers. These skills include oral language (expressive and receptive language, which includes vocabulary development), phonological awareness (rhyming, blending, segmenting sounds), awareness of the conventions of print, and alphabetic knowledge (letter recognition). Children who received instruction that focused on these reading development skills before entering kindergarten had higher reading and math scores, less grade retention, better social skills, fewer teen pregnancies, and less participation in welfare programs (Reynolds, 1997). The majority of reading difficulties of many adolescents and adults most likely could have been prevented or resolved during the early childhood years (US Department of Education, 2002). An important aspect of pre-literacy skills is phonological awareness (PA). Scientifically based reading research (Adams & Bruck, 1995; Griffith & Olson, 1992; Lundberg, Frost, & Petersen, 1988; Maclean, Bryant, & Bradley, 1987; Yopp, 1992; Yopp &Yopp, 2000) has shown that teachers can facilitate PA skills through the use of linguistic awareness games such as songs, nursery rhymes, rhyming activities, and sound manipulation activities. PA and its link to literacy as an early readiness skill will be addressed in this study. Specifically, this study will examine the incorporation of classroom PA activities in a preschool program by a speech language pathologist (SLP) on the development of children’s preliteracy skills. The remainder of this chapter will focus on the link between PA skills, metalinguistic skills, and literacy development.

Reading is an indispensable skill in modern day societies, particularly in educational advancement of pre-schoolers since it provides access to written knowledge. Therefore, impaired reading can affect the academic achievement and educational career of pre-schoolers. Reading is an activity characterized by the translation of symbols/letters into words and sentences that have meanings to the individual. The ultimate goal of reading is to be able to understand which can be accomplished through phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is a broad skill that includes identifying and manipulating units and parts of oral language, such as words, syllables, onsets and rimes. pre-schoolers who have phonological awareness are able to identify and make oral rhymes, to clap out the number of syllables in a word, and to recognize words with the same initial sounds, such as ‘money’ and ‘mother’.

The literature on remediation and prevention of reading difficulties has provided evidence that phonological awareness is an important component of early reading development. Phonological awareness is defined as the understanding of the sound structure of oral language. Over the last decade, studies have established that phonological deficits are a precursor to reading disabilities (Wagner et al., 1993). pre-schoolers with weak phonological awareness have difficulty understanding, that words can be broken into individual phonemes or acting on that knowledge. Weak phonological awareness may lead to learning disabilities, as pre-schoolers do not know how to decode new words. Moreover, decoding problems lead to further difficulties in reading fluently and comprehension of written text.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Most of pre-schoolers who have problems in mastering the English language reading comprehension skills, which affects their reading performance. The current study focuses on the Play and development of phonological skills among pre-schoolers. With the help of data collected from the pre-schoolers, the author will provide some suggestions to reduce future problems regarding reading comprehension skills.

1.3 Objectives of the study

This study is an attempt to identify thePlay and development of phonological skills among pre-schoolers. It also aimed at identifying the differences between male and females, gender influence, in phonological awareness. In addition to identifying pre-schoolers attitudes towards phonological awareness tasks.

1.4 Questions

The main question of the study states: does raising phonological awareness have an impact on improving EFL reading comprehension skill among pre-schoolers?

This leads to the following sub questions:

  1. Do phonological awareness tasks have an impact on reading comprehension skill?
  2. Do phonological awareness tasks improved reading skills among pre-schoolers?
  3. Does gender have a significant effect on developing reading skills during phonological awareness training?
  4. What are learners’ attitudes towards phonological awareness tasks?

1.5 Hypothesis

  1. Phonological awareness tasks have a positive impact on reading comprehension skill.
  2. Utilizing Phonological Awareness program in teaching reading comprehension improves pre-schoolers’ reading skill.
  3. There is no significant effect of gender on studying phonological awareness skills on reading performance.
  4. pre-schoolers, who have studied phonological awareness, acquired positive attitude towards Phonological Awareness program.

1.6 scope of the study

This study on the Play and development of phonological skills among pre-schoolers will be carried out among preschoolers in public early childhood education centers in River state and River state west senatorial district precisely.

1.7 Theoretical review

The Development of Phonological Awareness

Students begin to demonstrate Phonological Awareness through recognizing words as separate entities, such as ‘What does that mean?’ and syllables or rhymes; i.e. to be aware of how groups of sounds and words operate in spoken language, such as ‘mat and pat’ rhyme. They develop an awareness of individual sounds and can manipulate them, such as ‘dad and dear’. These

individual sounds of language known as phonemes. An important link in developing phonological awareness is to encourage students to use invented or temporary spelling. When students attempt to write a word, they must first listen to their own language and segments of the word sounds, and finally try to match sounds with letters. Students need some phonological awareness to use invented spelling, but their exploration of sounds through writing helps them to discover more about how sounds and letters work in English and how to utilize this knowledge as they read.

The Role of Phonological Awareness

There are different levels of phonological awareness within words, including syllables, onsets and rimes, and sounds. Recognizing this has important implications on supporting student development of phonological awareness. Good readers look for familiar “letter patterns” as a strategy when attempting to decode or spell unfamiliar words. In other words, they use familiar sound chunks from known words not just individual sounds. This “chunking” of sounds makes the reading and spelling process much more effective and efficient. These letter patterns are based on familiar syllable or rhyme patterns as well as sound clusters and individual sounds. This ability to look inside words for syllables, rhymes, and individual sounds when reading and spelling is based on the student’s phonological awareness. Students have to be able to segment, blend, and manipulate syllables, onset and rime, and sounds if they are going to be successful in using letter-sound knowledge effectively for reading and writing. The phonological awareness skills of segmenting and blending are most highly correlated with beginning reading acquisition (Snow et al., 1998).

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness:

Phonemic awareness refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Phonemes are the smallest units comprising spoken language. Phonemes combine to form syllables and words. For example, the word ‘mat’ has three phonemes: /m/ /a/ /t/. There are 44 phonemes in English, including sounds represented by letter combinations such as /th/. Acquiring phonemic awareness is important because it is the foundation of spelling and word recognition skills. Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how well children will learn to read during the first two years of school. Students with lower levels of phonological awareness are at risk of reading difficulty than do their classmates. The good news is that phonemic awareness and phonological awareness can be developed through a set of activities.

The Role of Phonological Awareness and Phonics

Students with high level of phonological awareness have the underlying framework in case of reading (decoding) and writing (encoding) when letter–sound correspondences (phonics) are learned. Students with lower level of phonological awareness can often learn “phonics”, the knowledge of letters and sounds, but they have difficulty using this knowledge as they read and spell. So, if students are expected to use letters and sounds as a source of information or cueing system as they read and spell, and they have to, since English is based on an alphabetic system, it is important to ensure that they have a well-developed phonological awareness. Students who have difficulty with this area of language (approximately 20 percent) will struggle through school in figuring out how sounds work in print. They will not be able to use sound knowledge effectively because they will not have the underlying ability to “listen inside a word” and “play with the sounds” they hear (Fitzpatrick, 1997).

The phonological process usually works unconsciously when we listen and speak. It is designed to extract the meaning of what is said, not to notice the speech sounds in the words. It is designed to do its job automatically in the service of efficient communication. But reading and spelling require a level of metalinguistic speech that is not natural or easily acquired. On the other hand, phonological skill is not strongly related to intelligence. Some very intelligent people have limitations of linguistic awareness, especially at the phonological level. Phonological awareness is important because it helps students learning how words in their language are represented in print. Many studies have found that phonemic awareness among pre-readers is a powerful predictor of future success in reading and spelling; more powerful than IQ or mental age (Torgesen, 2000). Studies, including Liberman & Shankweiler, 1985; Torgesen, 2000; Wagner, 1985) laid emphasis on the importance of phonological awareness for skillful reading. “It is now widely accepted that the primary cause of reading disability for a majority of children lies in phonological processing inefficiencies that interfere with the development of phonological skills such as phoneme segmentation, verbal memory, and name retrieval” (O’Shaughnessy & Swanson, 2000).

Deficits in phonological awareness cause reading problems in three key ways:-

First, in order to learn to translate oral language to print, the student must be sensitive to the internal structure of words; the sounds within each word. If he is unable to hear those individual phonemes, the alphabetic principle (i.e., how print translates to speech sounds) that underlies our system of written language will never make sense (Chard & Dickson, 1999). Students who possess phonological awareness can pick off and think about the sounds in spoken words, which helps them remembering the correspondence between sound and symbol as they lean about letters of the alphabet. When students have this awareness, they discover ways in which spoken language is encoded by print becomes meaningful (O’Connor et al., 1993).

Second, students with lower phonological awareness find it hard to remember which letter represents which sound. This difficulty with phonological decoding can lead to misreading words. If word-reading errors are not corrected, reinforced incorrect print-to-sound associations will become permanent and interfere with the student’s attempts to read similar words later (Olson et al., 1994).

Third, poor phonological skills can indirectly affect reading comprehension. If a student misreads important words in a passage, he may miss the main ideas being relayed. Also, if the reader is spending excessive energy trying to decode each word o f a sentence, his comprehension will be jeopardized (Olson et al., 1994).


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