How I Started Reading

This is my sharing on how i began reading…. with my mum.

I did not learn reading via Phonics. My mum who wasn’t even an English speaking parent read to me everyday without fail. Many times a day in fact. Sometimes requested by me… or when she’s done with work (she was a SAHM and a work-from-home-seamstress) she will initiate a story-telling session for us.

She pointed the words to me each time she read and i would just listen attentively. She never forced me to point to the words. During that time, i love to point to the pictures/illustrations which accompanied the stories and ask A LOT of questions for her to answer, which she DID! From her answers, i began to feel more and more interested to learn what those alphabets represent. I began to capture the words she read everyday and when i grew older, i initiated my interest to take over the role of pointing to the words. Mum let me… so, i began pointing to the words but didn’t really verbalize them… Mum still let me be…

Then, one day as she was reading the same story i just read it along with her. As my interest in capturing the words continued, i eventually began reading with her as she read. She didn’t stop reading the books though she knew i could already read some of them… We read together. This gave me confidence. It gave confidence that i would not read it wrongly cos mum read with me. Finally came the phase where i verbally told mum, "I can do it myself, mum…"

And mum let me. She sat with me throughout the time and listened attentively. She wasn’t a loud-compliment-kinda-mum. She was more of the silent-praiser.  Her smile… and the warmth from that acknowledging smile spurred me on.

I didn’t get rewards nor praises. Being able to spend time with her daily, just reading together… in itself was a rewarding experience for me. For us.  This nature is now practised by some parents who may believe that the nature of over-complimenting children is not healthy.Over-complimenting in the sense that, anything the child does… regardless how small, is being highly praised.

For example:

Mum : Oh! Wow! You managed to write letter a. Fantastic. I’m so proud of you! Mummy’s clever boy! You did so good!

For the parents who believe in self-satisfaction, the children grow up to learn that success in itself IS the satisfaction. These parents find in the long run, one will run out of praise and the child will not be motivated to pursue on his/her own with confidence. Not advocating here, but only mere sharing..

Likewise for the reward system. As children, my parents never implemented the reward system mainly due to the fact we couldn’t really afford much of a physical reward aniwaes… It will be just that from time to time, we’ll all go out for a good meal outside… or get to play at the toy shop… (only play, not buy anything) … or have a fun day out having a family picnic… (etc) Even going to grandma’s house was a treat. We were raised to enjoy the simple pleasures in life which in turn felt highly so rewarding without knowing it was a reward.

Parents who do not practise the reward system find that a child should not do something just to be rewarded…. If for example in the aspects of learning… the child should learn cause he/she has to and likes to… not for the sake of rewards. Again not siding this characteristics but only for mere sharing.

Phonics is but only one of the ways to nurture a reader. Not necessarily a fantastic method, but one of the methods…… as i have highlighted in a few of my posts, the delivery of the teaching person is imperative – for a successful delivery in the effectiveness of learning reading using the Phonics method.

Phonics has also been known to slow down the reading process of a handful of children as they had to keep deciphering and decoding the words to keep on reading. Phonics does however, improve diction… in our pronunciation. Phonics can help a child read clearly and speak clearly. And for a true Phonics believer and reader, children can be trained to speak ala Queen’s English as a result of all the phonetic lessons!

Then lastly i would like to add that in my line of work, i have met the few who do not have "an ear" for Phonics. No matter how you try, the child or parent, just cannot make out that the letters can represent sounds. These unique few can manage individual letter sounds, but can NEVER put sounds together to form words. No matter how hard these guys try, they cannot seem to make the connection between the sounds.

So, there isn’t a hard & fuss rule that a child MUST learn reading only via Phonics…. As parents, WE know… and WE understand our children best. Use our children’s learning abilities and learning strengths to best showcase & maximize their learning potential. Go with how our children learn best. Do not worry if your child just cannot seem to master a concept, or a language…. or a skill…. if at first they don’t succeed, try other ways!

Besides, there isn’t only one Phonics approach in real time… (now)

Just my dose of honest sharings..


Reading is Fun

I was not in Phonics as well. The love for reading needs to be nurtured within us. The illustrations are the best for kids to start loving books. 

Great experience there. Thanks for sharing!

So how shld i encourage

So how shld i encourage reading for my kids? As DS is a fairly poor reader, right now i use reward system to encourage him to learn hw to read independently after i read together w him a few times, abt 3 – 5 times, or with help of certain words.. Den if he is able to read independently w/o any help at all.. 1 star.. if he manage to get 3 stars, for 3 different books he read independently, I reward w a dollar.. so it is every 3 stars he earn = a dollar earned.. is tis gd for him in long run?

Thanks for

Thanks for sharing..

I told my children that it is their responsibility to study hard rather than using reward system….

Of course, reward system is a faster way to see result…my friend’s gal who is 3 yrs old was assessed to b K2 standard…she rewarded her gal generously if she is able to fufill her mission by reading 4 storybooks everyday and reinforce again by playing words game with her from 8p.m to 10p.m…Her gal sleep at 12 am everyday…

I stopped using reward system for my gal who is 3 yrs old after hearing out from my cousin who is SAHM. Her son excel in PSLE last year and was awarded scholarship to study in RI. Her son attended phonics at the age 4 to 5 yrs old and since then started to read by himself..he is a bookworm and must read 2 new storybooks everyday…My cousin told him that it is his responsibilty to study hard and never give rewards to him…Her son never asked for reward from her even though he excel in his PSLE cos he is totally aware that it is his responsilbilty..

Although my girl is unable to read like K2 at her age,(3yrs 8 mths), i am waiting patiently for her to surpise us one day…and mst imptly, she is aware that it is her responsilbilty to study …



Learning to read

Thanks for sharing. Your article has in a way ease my worry.

My older girl has been asking me why she still cannot read even though I read to them almost every night just before they go to bed since 3 years ago. However, my older girl (she is turning 4 years old in 3 weeks time) still didn’t read along with me, but my younger one (she is about 2 years 7 months) is reading along with me just 3 days ago which really surpised me.

I am seriously not sure how much words they have capture and I was a little worried and a little regretted that I didn’t start when she is in my womb ("tai jiao"). But after reading your article, I think my worry is unncessary, perhaps, just let nature takes it cause. Thinking about it, maybe because I am too eager to want her learn reading and maybe I have over exposed her to too many different categories of books….

And, recently, from another forum, someone given this interesting website that can teach the kids reading, i.e.

Mac Donald & Reading

I remember eating hot cakes in East Coast Mac (ya naughty girl travel from Jurong to East Coast Park with friends). May be around secondary 3-4. So, rough calculation should be in the late 80’s?

My mother is illiterate. So, it’s nice to know that mother’s back then do read to their children. It was my grandmother who read to me. But formal learning began when I enter kindergarten at age 6 and able to read simple book before primary  school. Unlike our kids now, they are priviledge to learn using phonic system very much earlier than us.


Big Nose? I remembered him

Big Nose? I remembered him by his fat waistline and thunder thighs. Some nostalgic moments…

I use Youtube’s Sesame Street extracts to teach my ds2 his 1-12 (from the pinball and ladybird song)

What's phonics??

Yes, that was my first reaction when I encountered phonics some years ago when I checked up on recommended reading for my DD. I realised that I didn’t learn reading through phonics and had some difficulty using it at first. That was until I came across Letterland. It’s fun for learning phonics as an adult too. And it made phonics easier to understand.
You know on Sesame Street, there’s always this cartoon guy with a big nose who comes out to read a sign? He will use phonics to read it everytime. Back when I was a kid, I was always wondering what he was doing and decided that he was just plain weird. LOL

hey buds, what a nostalgic

hey buds, what a nostalgic sharing! anyway, although i didn’t have the fortune of being read to, ie. i dun think my dad ever read to me and my mum is english illiterate, i fortunately benifitted from a good kindergarten programme (in fact two – one in morning and one in afternoon) as my mum was a kiasumum too 🙂

reading is coincidentally wat i m focusing on doing with my dd now. just enjoying our reading sessions everynight, be it english or chinese books. of course, nowadays we r luckier in the sense that able to afford to buy good quality books to keep so can read again and again! although dd can read, she nonetheless still wants me to read for her and refuses to read back for me. i m ok with that since i think she enjoys the exaggerated, drama-rama style of reading which is much more entertaining than reading the text word-by-word. and i personally enjoy reading to her becos i can be as uninhibited (ie. exaggerated and drama-rama) as i want 🙂 i also think its a prelude to those speech and drama classes. how to perform well without good diction, articulation and pronunciation right?

Agree with Em that phonics

Agree with Em that phonics is not a must to learn to read English, nuturing the habits and love for reading is more important.

I only came across Phonics in recent years, yet to learn in depth when DS reaching N1. Honestly I’m quite skepticle about the method. Someone told me her daughter masters Phonics but it confused her with HYPY and this P1 or 2 girl ‘hates’ to learn Chinese as the rules and basic pronounciation of Phonics are totally different from HYPY.

I’m from Chinese educated family, dad has many Chinese classic stories and JinYong’s Chinese Sword Fighting Novels (Wu Xia Xiao Shuo), all five of us are encouraged to read his collections since young.

Comparing to English, Chinese is more difficult to learn. All five of us are from Chinese stream in primary school, has no difficulty switching to English stream in Secondary/Tertiary. But those are the past decades, right now the standard of Primary school English is much higher, especially the Math questions. I’m starting to shiver, perhaps I should sign up the British Council courses before DS enter Primary school…

I do feel it's true that

I do feel it’s true that phonics is not a must for learning how to read English. My parents are Chinese educated altho’ my dad’s English is pretty good now after many years of work. When i was young, my mum used to borrow gazillion English books for me from the library, and just let me read them (I must have learnt my ABCs in kindergarten and primary school). My dad was too busy working to read to me. And being the only child for many years, books were my playmates. Same thing was repeated with my bro when he came 12 yrs after me, except for him it was accelerated since 3 members of the household were constantly reading newspapers/ mags/ books at the breakfast table/ in the loo(!!)/ before bedtime etc. He now out-argues me anytime.

So until a few months ago, I had no idea what phonics actually entailed. And even now that I do know, my current plan with my kiddo is still to surround her with lots of books, cultivate in her a love for reading, and hope it takes her thru’ wonderful and imaginative experiences.

I remembered the hotcakes too!

Hi jedamum,

I think we belong to the same era.

They gave out hotcakes when I was schooling too!

When I collected the hotcake coupons ( think you need a couple of them to get the hotcakes), I was so poor that I could only ask for a cup of plain water to go along with it, while my friends could afford soft drinks that time. But it was one of my most memorable moments.

Hated reading as my parents had never advocated them, they justed needed us to pass our exams. So, I spoke English only when I reached P2. I remembered that when I started P1, I had to speak to the teacher in Hokkien! So embarrassing. 

Being multi-lingual, that’s when DH and I decided to speak to our children in dialects, hoping that they would appreciate our roots, and not just being able to take only English and Mandarin.

You ladies are really

You ladies are really blessed with a good mummy who can read to you. My mum is illiterate. I never had this privilege of reading during my kindie and primary sch days. Mum had no time to worry about our sch work, not to mention reading leisurely. Those days, we only worry about bread and butter.

On top of that, there wasn’t a proper sch library and I had to take a bus to the nearest regional library if I want to borrow books. I don’t own a single story book at all , no money to buy. So from young I always had to struggle with my English, till now. With this lesson learnt, I try to be the "good" mummy to read to my kids and encourage them to read on their own too. Thru this reading journey with them, I learn something new each day. It’s like I back to primary school all over again!

Low income families

I’ve volunteered my time for low-incomed families or should i say…. almost

no income if not for the hand-outs the families get. They have no means to

even GO to a library. Travelling is extremely a challenge for a family of 6 to

a single-mum. And not to mention the cost of travelling too…


I and my friends read to the children everytime we meet for pre-literacy lessons

to indulge them in the wonderful realm of stories. As the weeks go by, the

children started picking the books we’ve read and pretend to read themselves.

Why pretend? Cause they don’t know how to read. They just read by looking at

the pictures and from memory – ie. the repetitions we provide for them. We try

to collect pre-loved books (simple ones) from friends and family to be donated

to these families.


The NLB promotion does sound good, jedamum… tho i don’t personally recall

such a great gimmick during my time… how old were you then?


Myself and our group of volunteers brought the under-privileged group for a

Mac Donalds breakfast and i tell you… they didn’t even know how to eat the

Hotcakes. They’ve never eaten in Mac Donalds before in their lives. Their

age range from 5+ to 8 years old. One parent asked me, "What is the syrup

for?"….. A child removed the frozen butter and held it with his pincer grip to

eat it… yup… just eat it like that. So, i asked. "Why do you eat it like that?"

And the child replied, "Errr… why? Isn’t cheese supposed to be eaten like

that…. like cheese?"


Boy, our kiddies are so lucky..


Soooooo….. they better read, ain’t it so?






Almost there…that is how late i started reading text other than textbooks.

If not for them…guess i won’t start leisure reading so ‘soon’…hahaha…


Maybe cos it’s a ‘new’ town and perhaps it’s not an island-wide promotion thingy

Like granny, like mother

Hi buds,

Your story strikes a chord that someone each of us carry on a portion of what our mum used to do with us and we pass it on to our children?

Consciously or unconsciously, we pick up / learn from how our parents used to treat us… eg.. my mum forbides tv during term time when me n bros were in primary school… somehow, all 3 of us grow up… not being addicted to the tv at all… then i didnt feel anything, but now i appreciate that and am trying to pass it on to my own gals.. my hubby family on the other hand, my mil usually uses the tv to keep the kids occupied… i realise that my hubby, my sils hv a tendency to do that with the kids… rather than try to find something to work/ play with them…

Thks for sharing.. this further affirms that whatever we do now is only not for our kids… but for our kids kids… n kids kids kids 


I had my 1st MacDonald's meal...

… when I was in JC1.  First taste of french fries at the tender age of… 17yo.  I think Hotcakes appeared only in the early 90s? mean you

Erm… mean you remember the promotion?! It comes with a bookmark.


As in MacDonald’s Hotcakes?  I didn’t know you are that young, jedamum 🙂

Not for everyone...

Good for you, amylqf… Yes, apart from patience……. what my mum did was also to emphasize on alphabetical-styled spelling. Ya know, when we just say c-a-t = cat, as what it is… ie. seeeee…..aaaayy…….teeeeee.= cat. There wasn’t any Phonics background for parents back then in my time, but hey, i and my brothers managed great anyhow. And plus it never was stressful for me at all. I never thought of reading as a chore or as something that i MUST do…. it just came as a natural skill eventually. Reading English text will be much easier for an all English speaking family who may not require Phonics intervention at all. Words are just captured naturally while reading, as the language spoken is already there as a foundation.


Let me share how i started

Let me share how i started reading for leisure…

It started with a promotion gimmick – borrow certain no. of books and you’ll be entitled to a free meal of Hotcakes. It then enticed my mum (who is busy running the household with 4 noisy kids) to bring us on a 20min journey to the library.

I feel that the NLB promotion board should bring back such events to entice lower-income families to bring their kids to the library on a frequent basis.

I learned to read  the

I learned to read  the same way too when I was a child. Thank you for sharing. It brought back the wonderful memories learning reading with mum.

And totally agree with you that . the child should learn cause he/she has to and likes to… not for the sake of rewards.  It make learning all the more enjoyable.

Hi, buds, thanks for

Hi, buds, thanks for sharing with us your reading experience with your mum.

That reminds me of myself. English is not my mother tongue too.
Just like your mum, I read it to my child when she was about 18 month every night without fail. The only thing is I am not that patient to wait. Until my child is 4 years old, she still didn’t show any sign or initiative to read. I start to teach her phonics. Although I agree learning phonics is not the only way to read, it did help me daughter in reading and spelling.

Thanks again for sharing. Your story give the hope to those children who can’t master phonics.

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