Reading 800 Words Without Phonics

My eldest learnt to read nearly 800 words by the time he was 30 months old and my two other kids all learnt to read independently by age 3.

But when my kids were 2 years old, I rejected phonics lessons. I did not, and still do not, believe it is the best and most effective approach to use in teaching kids to read.

I taught all my kids to read by age 3 without teaching them phonics at all.

Why I ditch Phonics?
Teaching kids to learn the letter sounds, one letter at a time will take 26 weeks to learn the alphabet. Half a year later, the child still would NOT have learnt to read any word.

Some parents may think 'why not start them at age 2, so by the time they are 30 months, they could start blending! No, thanks. Here I will share some links for those who want to know why. And I will share WHAT I did instead, if you are interested enough to continue reading.

Why Phonics Doesn't Work? 

Problems and Frustrations in Word Decoding

Five things about phonics 

Many kids under 5 years old will find phonics rules too complex and frustrating. The act of breaking up each word into parts of meaningless sounds can be too laborious. The individual sounds do not make sense to kids and they just have to memorise the sounds, in addition to memorising the phonic rules! Of course it takes the joy out of reading!

In my kids' case, I knew they would learn phonics in nursery and kindergarten anyway, though most of my kids started daily school only in the year they turned 4. Still, I did not see the point of teaching them the same thing that they would learn in school. To me, learning the letter sounds before peers does not present any real head start advantage.

The REAL head start advantage in language lies in the child's ability to
1. read WHOLE words
2. understand what he is reading
3. express views and thoughts in good English

In addition to these, I work hard to ensure they possess an excellent vocabulary.  Research has repeatedly proven that a strong vocabulary is KEY to raising a strong reader and writer. 


How Do I Teach Reading?
I practise the whole-word approach instead with my own children and students. My eldest learnt to read nearly 800 words by the time he was 2.5 years and my two other kids all learnt to read independently by age 3.

I taught them entirely with the whole-word approach, daily reading (with specific reading strategies) and specially designed lapbooking activities targeted to strengthen their print awareness, build a strong vocabulary and nurture them in a language-rich environment.

By age 3, they could already recognise words when peers in a typical Nursery 1 (the year kids turned 3) level were only being introduced to the alphabet.

By age 4, my kids could read fluently and with good focus and stamina to read paragraphs and short stories as long as 32 pages. Peers in typical Nursery 2 (the year kids turned 4) level were learning the sounds of the 26 letters.

By age 5, when most Kindergarten 1 (year they turned 5) kids were starting to learn blending, my kids were reading chapter books.

By Kindergarten 2, kids would have been taught in school to blend simple words. However, many still read very slowly and lack the ability to understand longer sentences and passages, if they were to rely solely on the phonics method of learning to read.

Those who are fluent readers with excellent vocabulary and strong grasp of the English language by now typically have other important reading habits in place.

3-years-old Can Read Too
Since January, most of my previously non-reading Bright Minds Lapbookers students, who began lessons only last October, have all begun to recognise words. Some are as young as just over 3 years old.

They are reading, understanding and using long, multi-syllabic words and not just short, simple words such as 'dog', 'hat' and 'cat'.

No, we did not do boring activities such as 'make-a-sentence' or read boring one-liner readers. Instead, we read inspiring literature carefully selected for our programme to instill a love for reading.

However, just reading alone is insufficient to teach the child to read or raise a strong reader. This is why reading strategies must be coupled with specially designed lapbooking activities that build a strong language foundation to achieve results in such a short span of time.

Read Why My Lapbooking Approach Works and Bright Minds Lapbookers






Term after term, students of my Bright Minds Lapbookers programme read more fluently than their average peers elsewhere. They are also much stronger in vocabulary and comprehension.

Once a young child begins reading, nothing can stop them. They will WANT to read anything and everything that crosses their path.

The advantages of having that desire and ability to read are undeniable, especially if we can fuel the child's hunger to learn as well.

This is the REAL headstart advantage that we should be all be focusing on.

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About Us


As the saying goes ‘From tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow‘.

From Tiny Acorns was established in 2009 with the mission to nurture and inspire young minds with a passion for learning.

Every child is born with tremendous potential and hidden talents waiting to be discovered and nurtured. We recognize the importance of early childhood education that offers limitless opportunities in stimulating the young minds and inculcating a positive learning attitude.

Our programmes for toddlers and preschoolers are planned based on the principles of inter-disciplinary thematic teaching method. Every lesson is delivered with a coaching style that encourages the development of strong language foundation, inquisitiveness and problem-solving skills.

Early and consistent exposure to our method of learning shall provide your child with a headstart advantage academically, and more importantly, opening up a world of possibilities for your child as he becomes a confident and independent individual with a strong love for learning.

Our programmes (click on links to learn more):
Bright Minds Lapbookers (age 3 to 10 years)
Bright World Thinkers (age 10 to 12 years)
Chinese Lapbookers (age 4 to 9 years)





Bright Minds Lapbookers

Bright Minds Lapbookers is Singapore's first interdisciplinary programme.

This highly popular class, conducted in English, employs a literature-based, interdisciplinary thematic learning approach, specially designed for children between the ages of 3 and 9 years.

We promote a language-rich environment that inspires a passion for learning in our young children. Children learn best when learning is engaging!

The comprehensive curriculum ensures every child is stimulated and challenged in their learning of the English language, Mathematics, Science, Current Affairs, General Knowledge, Geography and cultural appreciation and so much more!

In every term, our young minds are exposed to Language Art activities such as art and poetry appreciation, rhymes and stories, crafts and other fun-filled activities that encourage independent exploration, inquisitiveness and critical thinking. 

The exposure to texts of different literary genres makes reading delightful, relevant and meaningful. Through our literature-based learning process that encourages discussions in every lesson, students are also guided to express their views and thoughts, which are key to honing strong critical thinking, communication and comprehension skills.

As a result of the way lessons are facilitated and our carefully designed activities, students will pick up strong reading skill and a vast vocabulary. Students learn to appreciate stories of different genres and themes and be more motivated to read independently.

Our interdisciplinary activities introduce Math and Science concepts in ways that will pique children's curiosity, strengthen their understanding and application of Math and Science concepts.



Through interactive activities and active participation, our young children are motivated to listen, explore, discover and think for themselves as they apply concepts to individual tasks and collaborative project work.




For every lapbook, students get ample opportunities to work in pairs or groups of three. They are presented with unique scenarios which require them to work collaboratively, hold discussions, problem-solve and give presentations to their peers.

Through this highly interactive process, they acquire and hone life skills that will take them far and beyond their preschool years.

The wide range of activities ensures every preschooler graduates with a strong foundation in English, ready to embrace the demands of the Primary school curriculum.

Our lower Primary students are also well-poised to excel academically as they are exposed to weekly challenges that accelerate their learning and stretch their abilities. 

In addition to the unique learning experience, students take home a lapbook that showcases some of the tasks that they have accomplished in class.

We are firm believers that learning does not end when students leave our classrooms. To ensure continuous learning and effortless reinforcement at home to achieve greater success, we update parents of their children's learning through a weekly Lesson Guide.

Every parent will also get regular consultation times to understand their children's progress, strengths and weaknesses. An individual learning path is mapped out with guidance and suggestions for parents to consider, so we can actively help every child reach his/her potential.


Also check out what other parents said about our programmes.

Interested? Email from-tiny-acorns@hotmail.com for class schedule and vacancies.

Also learn more about Bright World Thinkers for age 9 to 11 years. Click HERE.