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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