The Art and Science of Reading

What is the art and science of reading? Let’s decode it together!

Language is comprised of phonemes, which are the smallest segments of sounds. Phonological awareness involves the ability to hear, separate, manipulate, or change sounds in words. A student’s phonological awareness becomes their decoding skillset and on a basic level consists of the following: 

Phonemic Awareness
The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes, which are the individual sounds in words. Students need to understand the connection between a letter and the sound that it makes in order to learn to “sound out words”, which is the basis of reading. This can get complicated because, for example, the word “whale” has five letters, but only three sounds /wh/ /long a/ and /l/. The word “melt” has four sounds, one for each letter: /m/ /e/ /l/ /t/.

Phonics is another term that is used to refer to the ability to learn that letters and combinations of letters represent sounds that come together to make words.

For example, when children learn the sounds that the letters b, a, and n make, they can sound out the words “an,” “ban,” and “nab.” When a child learns that when an “e” is added to the end of the word, the vowel in the middle changes from a short to a long vowel sound, they can read the words “shin” and “shine,” or “tap” and “tape.”

Word Awareness
This is the ability to track words in sentences. Although, it is not so much a phonological skill as a semantic (meaning-based) language skill.

Syllable Awareness
This is the ability to count, tap, blend, or segment a word into syllables.

Onset and Rime Awareness 
An onset is the part of the syllable that precedes the vowel of the syllable.

rime is the part of a syllable which consists of its vowel and any consonant sounds that come after it.

Learn more about the art and science of reading with Early Reading Skills and Reading in Content Areas online PD!


About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through, and, Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD for schools.