I’ve been asked why we should teach phonological awareness. Instruction in these skills is considered one of the five key components of effective reading instruction for all kids. In my experience, children will learn many of these skills before they come to school if reading aloud and “playing” with words are a routine part of their interactions with adults. What does playing with words and sounds look like? Kids listen to and create rhymes, make new words by changing sounds, and watch someone pointing to each word as they read are a story. Many children’s books use alliteration, which also helps kids isolate beginning sounds if this literary feature is emphasized during reading. By the time many middle- and upper-class kids enter kindergarten, they have made important strides in both phonological and phonemic awareness. Poor kids typically don’t have those advantages. More formal instruction is usually provided in kindergarten, primarily in blending beginning sounds with rimes (or “word families”) and rhyming. Systematic instruction in this skill will benefit all kids and level the playing field for kids who haven’t had this early exposure. For kids who are at risk for developing reading disabilities, earlier instruction in this area is also vitally important.