Phonemic awareness and literacy acquisition
This review focuses on phonological awareness (PA) skills and their key role both in literacy acquisition and development and in explaining reading and writing difficulties; in particular, we focus on phonemic awareness, which implies awareness of the smallest speech units. Several questions about PA are addressed; we discuss major research findings over the past few decades both in typically developing children and children with dyslexia, mainly carried out in Spanish. We also discuss the development of PA and how children’s implicit knowledge of speech sounds progresses into explicit knowledge through kindergarten games and other experiences with oral language and, especially, when children start to learn how to read and write. This process is not free of difficulties, given the phenomenon of coarticulation. This step signifies the development of distinct levels of PA skills, which predict reading and writing acquisition. Additionally, the difficulties of dyslexic children in PA tasks are discussed; these difficulties are more evident in speed processing than in accuracy. Finally, the present article reviews issues that should be taken into account when PA tasks are designed both for assessment and intervention. Practical implications for effective intervention for the development and enhancement of PA skills are discussed.