For many of us, reading has never been a struggle; we just learned to read and became better with practice. For me personally, I was never taught to read through a phonics based approach–I basically learned by sight.
For others, however, and especially children with learning disabilities, learning to read can be a painful process. Most children with processing difficulties in reading are of average intelligence. As a result, they learn quickly and do understand that they have a problem most students don’t have.
These students need extra intervention, and for these students, learning systematically the process of sounds and syllabication is necessary.
Whether your child has a learning disability or is just learning to read–pretty much all schools use a phonics based approach when teaching reading.
You can practice phonemic awareness with your child/students by: practicing rhyming, learning the individual letter sounds, practicing breaking words up into syllables (e.g. happy is /hap/ /py/), and practicing saying letter sounds out loud and then blending (e.g. cat is the three sounds /c/ /a/ /t/ and then blend to say “cat”).
(A lot of books on reading and programs like Reading Mastery use the phrase, “Say it fast” to prompt students to blend sounds).