Phonological awareness (PA) refers to children’s ability to distinguish or manipulate the auditory segments of any spoken language. The present work investigates PA skills in preschool children in relation to the successive development of children’s reading/writing abilities in an L1 and an L2. The first chapter explores the methodological issues that are still unsolved or neglected in the field of early foreign language teaching methodology in Italy. What follows is a description of PA skills and development in English-speaking children, and the of PA role within children’s process of L1 literacy acquisition. The next section describes the most relevant evidence-based studies supporting the role of PA as an emergent literacy skill in preschool children, and as a predictor of literacy acquisition.
In order to verify whether PA skills can be transferred from an L1 to an L2, the author successively examines the development of PA in children acquiring a language other than English as their L1, or English as a second language, and the phenomenon of transfer of PA skills across English/other alphabetic or non-alphabetic languages. The following chapters tackle methodological issues and describe the general educational environment where PA tasks in English as an L2 could be carried out in Italian preschools, as well as the main features of these activities. Lastly, a set of innovative teaching/learning tasks are presented. These tasks have been designed by the author, with the purpose of assisting Italian educators in developing preschool children’ PA skills, as well as their overall oral skills in English as an L2.