This study set out to investigate the phonological awareness skills of learners with reading disability. When one is considered a normal reader, he or she does not encounter much difficulty in reading and understanding texts. There are, however, children who have problems with phoneme identification and thus do not read well and they also have difficulties in comprehending texts. These learners should be identified and be assisted so that they can proceed with their learning lives. This study was guided by the following objectives: to investigate phonological awareness of learners with reading disability; to establish the correlation among the various measures of phonological awareness and to determine the significance of rapid automatic naming in reading. A sample of pupils in class six from the selected schools in Nairobi County was used in the study. Phonological awareness skills of these learners were tested to find out the nature of their awareness and skills in the tasks that were given. This study adopted an eclectic theoretical approach. The following theories guided the study: the Phonological Awareness Theory which states that reading based on the alphabetic system requires that readers be aware that words are made up of individual sounds and the Rapid Naming Theory which states that a good reader is one who has the ability to recall quickly and verbalize the names of presented objects which could also be individual alphabetical letters. The data were obtained from tape – recorded texts from the respondents and analysed to establish their nature of phonological awareness. Descriptive statistics which includes measures of central tendency and measures of correlation were used to summarize and describe the data. Tape recorded data were transcribed, analysed and then discussed. The results indicate that the respondents displayed phonological awareness skills in some PA tasks and experienced difficulties in some of the PA tasks. The study also found that there was no significant difference between the genders in their performances in the phonological awareness tasks. Various deficits in phonological awareness were also observed. These were categorized as mis-articulations of substitution, phoneme deletion, phoneme insertion, reading of the entire word instead of identifying the sounds; spelling the words; atypical and segmentation. It was also noted that there were correlations among the various measures of phonological awareness and absence of correlation among others. This showed that pupils have to be taught in all the measures for them to have phonological awareness skills. The study also looked at the significance of naming speed (RAN) in reading. It was observed that there were no significant differences in the time taken across the age groups and across the genders in the carrying out of the phonological awareness tasks.
Reading is a literacy component that should be acquired by all. This is because it is a crucial skill that is required in an individual’s day to day activities. Anyone with disabilities in reading is bound to experience tremendous personal, economic and social limitations in today’s word loaded with diverse information that call for effective reading. Within the schools’ contexts, learners have to read and understand the various subjects they study in order to perform well in their examinations. The National Institute of Literacy (NIFL, 2007) defines reading as:
A complex system of deriving meaning from print that requires all of the following: the skill and knowledge to understand how phonemes or speech sounds are connected to print; the ability to decode unfamiliar words; the ability to read fluently; sufficient background information and vocabulary to foster reading comprehension; the abilities to construct meaning from prints and the development of maintenance of motivation to read (p.1).
One of the essential elements of reading that formed the basis of the present study is the reading skill which involves the skill and knowledge to understand and recognize phonemes or speech sounds. The understanding of phonemes is largely referred to in reading studies as phonological awareness. It is the knowledge employed by readers to recognize words that rhyme, to identify the syllables in words and to recognize and manipulate sounds in words (Kirby, et al,. 2003). Learners who manifest deficits in phonological awareness have been found to experience persistent difficulties in word decoding (Blachman, 1991). Due to the significance of phonological awareness in the reading process, the present study sought to investigate the manifestations of phonological awareness deficits experienced by selected pupils in class six with reading disabilities in selected schools in Nairobi County.
The K.I.E syllabus (2002) outlines the learning experiences and the reading tasks that learners in class six should be able to perform comfortably. These include: reading instructions and directions, signs, notices, posters and advertisements, formal and informal letters, sample poems and plays, comprehension passages and library books just to mention a few. For a standard six pupils to perform well in these tasks, they should not be having any reading difficulties. The scenario where there are learners who exhibit disabilities in reading is what led the present study
to target such learners and to investigate their phonological awareness skills in decoding words.
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