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Early Literacy Development - 5 Year Old Child that Can Read, Write, and Spell

"Barbie is a Hero", Writes a 5 Year old.

"Mommy, does Ech, Yee, Ar, Oh, spell HERO?" Asks a little girl.

"Yes, that is correct."

A brief pause and a few moments later, the little girl asks again: "How do you spell THINGS?"

Without waiting for an answer, she continues: "Thhhhh, thhhh, thhhhing. Tee Ech makes the Thhhh sound right? T-H-I-N-G-S, things..." Another period of silence follows, and shortly after, you hear the same little girl singing:writing by a 5 year old

Barbie is a hero Barbie is a hero

She can make things safe for you

Barbie is a hero Barbie is a hero

to Make you safe from bad guys

Punctuation is not included in a 5 year old's world. =)

The above short song is written by a 5 year 2 months old girl named Raine, and the picture above is a scanned copy of what she wrote and sang about Barbie being a hero. It's something she came up with, and story writing (singing) is a creative outlet for her. No direct help was needed other than the simple conversation referenced above.

That's pretty impressive, for a 5 year old child. At an age when most 5 year olds cannot read yet, she is not only able to read fluently, but also able to spell correctly, and write her own short stories. Being her father, and having spent enormous amounts of time studying and researching the topic of teaching reading, I'm still constantly amazed and surprised at what a five year old is capable of. Sort of like the surprise birthday card I got. See below. Although it was not my birthday. =) She was just making crafts and decided to write "stuff" on the birthday card.

What's most surprising is not that she can write and spell, but rather, we did not make much of an effort to teach her to spell! Genius child, right? Well, not so fast. We did spend several months to teach her to read when she was 2 years 8 months old, and I'm 100% confident in saying that it is the teaching method, that made it possible for her to be able to spell with accuracy and confidence at such a young age.

In case you're wondering, the teaching method involves 2 key components: 1) teaching phonemic awareness and 2) learning through systematic synthetic phonics.

5 Year Old Reading Video

Indeed, she learned to read before she was even 3 years old. Sure, most kids will learn some basic reading in Kindergarten and Grade 1, but give me any normal (not learning disabled) child, and I'll have that child reading within a few short months - even 2 and 3 year olds. With all the research I did, I know a thing or two about the topic of teaching reading. I taught all of my children to read - phonetically - before age 3. Below is a video of (almost) 5 year old Raine reading chapter books:

How does a young child learn to read and spell so well? In fact, we only taught her to read, not spell. Knowing how to spell was a bit of a "side effect" of learning to read phonetically, and studies have proven that learning to read through the development of phonemic awareness has significant benefits on reading and spelling development.

In a report published by the National Reading Panel (NRP) they had stated that phonemic awareness has significant effects on reading and spelling and that these effects last well beyond the period of training. Their report also found that the younger the child, the greater the benefits. For example, they had stated that while younger children (such as K and G1 students) had enhanced reading, spelling, and text comprehension abilities, older children only benefited by achieving enhanced reading and spelling skills, but their comprehension level did not improve.

You can add our family as another piece of (anecdotal) evidence to support the NRP findings. At 2 years 8 months old, we spent several months teaching Raine to read, and she was reading before age 3. After completing our reading lessons (50 in total), we did not spend any further time working on reading lessons with her. From that point on (3 yrs old) we simply let her pick the books she enjoyed, and spent quality read aloud time with her nightly before bed. Again, the spelling abilities seemed to emerge all by itself as she began learning to hold and use a pencil, and began to "scribble" her way into spelling literacy.

There is a unique relationship between graphemes (smallest written unit of language) and phonemes (smallest unit of sound), and it is this conversion (decoding) of graphemes to phonemes that makes fluent and accurate reading possible. When children learn and master this, they become super fluent readers.

And conversely, it is the opposite of the above, where the conversion of phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (text) that greatly enhances a child's spelling abilities. 

In our reading lessons, phonemic awareness and and synthetic phonics are meshed together in a seamless learning process that helps children develop an automatic and instant ability to decode printed text - that is, convert text to sounds to synthesize words and to comprehend its meaning. It is this crucial process that also improves spelling abilities, and makes its development a nice "side effect" of learning to read phonetically.

If you would like to learn more about our super simple, logical, sequential system of teaching reading, please click here to watch a short video explaining our methods.