The ability to analyze and manipulate the sound structure of a language. An example is rhyming. By changing the first sound of a word, you create a rhyme... cat, hat, rat, bat. These changes can happen at the syllable level or that of individual sounds (aka, phonemes). Difficulty in this area will lead to a slow-down in a child's ability to figure out how sounds and letters work in words.
The ability to recall the speech sounds associated with letters. When attempting to read or spell a word, a child having difficulty with phonological retrieval will struggle to remember the sound each letter or letter combination represents. This will make reading and spelling at the word level extremely difficult.
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The storage of sounds in temporary short-term working memory. We use this skill when remembering how much to pay a cashier, repeating a phone number until we're able to write it down, and recalling the sounds in a word as we attempt to sound it out or spell it. If a child can't keep track of the sounds they're attempting to use, reading and spelling will be very challenging.
Our use of sounds to process and understand spoken and written language. It includes skills such as phonological and phonemic awareness, phonological working memory, and phonological retrieval. Weaknesses in these areas are usually the core weakness in reading and learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.
We also use these skills to take reading from the word level to the story level. Even though they can read words, they may have trouble binding together the sounds they hear and say, the words they see and write, and the context and meaning of those words. If this is the case, they'll stop and start as they read paragraphs and struggle with reading comprehension.