All About Learning Press

Programs that teach thoroughly, so your child can succeed amazingly

Why We Teach Reading and Spelling Separately

Some things just go together.

You know…like spaghetti and meatballs, salt and pepper, and Snoopy and Woodstock.

Or like reading and spelling.

But wait…should reading and spelling really be taught together? As strange as it may seem…

I recommend that reading and spelling not be taught in the same lesson.

Would you like to know why? Watch this video or continue reading.

I’m often asked why we don’t combine reading and spelling into a single All About® program. Let’s look at a couple of important facts that help answer this question.

First, reading is easier than spelling.

Most children learn to read much more quickly than they learn to spell. Simply put, reading is easier than spelling. Need proof? Read the words below.

Can you spell these words

You didn’t have any trouble reading them, did you? But what if I asked you to spell them? (Without looking first, of course!) How would you do? If you think you would have gotten all of these words correct, congratulations! You’re probably a better speller than most adults. Though most adults can easily read these words, many would misspell them.

The same is true for your child. Reading age-appropriate words like animal and wear is usually much easier than spelling them. And herein lies the challenge.

There are more than 250 ways to spell the 45 sounds in the English language.

Spelling would be much easier if the sounds were always spelled the same way. But though the English language contains just 26 letters, these letters combine to create 45 speech sounds. And to complicate the matter even more, there are over 250 ways to spell those sounds.

For example, the sound of /j/ can be spelled J (jiggle), G (gym), DGE (badge), or D (gradual).

But that’s just the beginning. Think about the sound of long U and all the ways that it can be spelled.

Ways to spell long U

And the sound of /sh/ can be spelled with all these combinations.

Ways to spell the sh sound

All these combinations can make words that are easy to read difficult to spell. For example, with a basic understanding of phonics, a child should be able to decode the word special without much trouble. But spelling the word special may present a young student with a greater challenge.

Is it spelled speshul, just like it sounds?

Or is it spetial like martial?

Or should it be spelled spesial with the same word ending as controversial?

See what I mean? Is it any wonder that so many children (and adults!) struggle with spelling? With so many possible spellings for each sound, the best you can do is to visually recognize the correct spelling and practice. And practice. And then practice some more.

So now we understand that learning to spell is harder than learning to read. And that leads us to the second reason that we teach spelling and reading separately.

If you teach reading and spelling together, one or the other will be sacrificed.

Teaching spelling and reading of the same words in the same time frame guarantees only one thing: one of these critically important subjects will fall by the wayside. There are two possible scenarios.

Scenario #1: Your child learns to read the words in the lesson, but he can’t move on because he’s still learning to spell them. (Remember, it takes longer to learn to spell the words than it does to read them.) You’ve chosen to focus on spelling at the expense of reading.


Scenario #2: Your child learns to read the words in the lesson. Though he’s still learning to spell the words, you decide to allow him to move on to the next lesson. You’ve chosen to focus on reading, so your child’s spelling suffers.


As you can see, no matter what you decide, it’s a no-win situation. Both scenarios force you to choose one subject to the detriment of the other.

At All About Learning Press, we don’t believe you should have to sacrifice your children’s learning. Fortunately, there is a third scenario.

Teach reading and spelling separately and your child will benefit.

When you teach reading and spelling separately, your child can succeed at BOTH subjects.

He can progress as quickly as possible in reading…


and he can take as much time as he needs in spelling.


And then you can enjoy them together.

Like spaghetti and meatballs.

Do you think that teaching reading and spelling separately would make a difference for your kids?


About Marie Rippel

Marie Rippel, curriculum developer of the award-winning All About Reading and All About Spelling programs, is known for taking the struggle out of both teaching and learning. Marie is an Orton-Gillingham practitioner, sought-after speaker, and member of the International Dyslexia Association. When not writing or teaching, Marie can be found riding her Icelandic horses.


    Speak Your Mind


    Want your photo to appear?
    Get a Gravatar!

  1. Thanks for sharing this great idea

  2. Aaron Schofield says:

    I do appreciate this post, but I have a question on implementation. Do you mean to say that we should wait to teach spelling until our child is reading fluently? Or just that lessons should be on different days? And how does handwriting practice figure in? For example, my 8 year old really needs spelling instruction. She is a very advanced reader, and gets bored easily. I think Level 4 would be the best fit for words she doesn’t always spell correctly, but she does not have the foundational rules for the earlier levels. How quickly can we go through the earlier level rules?

    My 6 year old reads aloud slowly from Charolette’s Web, but naturally cannot spell well at all. I do not want to teach her spelling yet, but I am not sure when to start. However, I do want to help her with handwriting, so she is holding her pencil correctly, starting letters in the right place, and can distinguish bs and ds, etc.


    • Merry at AALP says:

      Hi Aaron,

      Marie recommends completing All About Reading Level 1 first (or the equivalent), and then adding in the All About Spelling program sometime after that. This way students get a solid start in reading first, and have a strong basis for spelling as well. See our article on the Right Time to Start AAS:

      It’s fine to wait on spelling for your 6 year-old if you find she isn’t ready yet. Some people do focus on handwriting first and add in spelling later in the first or second grade year. If you had a child who was very interested in spelling or who was already trying to write down notes or stories, then you would want to teach spelling sooner.

      For your 8 year-old, you would want to start with Level 1, but fast-track through those beginning levels. Most students get through 2-3 levels the first year, but if all of the early words were super easy for her, she might get to level 4 this year. Here is an example of how you might fast track, taken from level 1:

      You can apply this same strategy to the other levels until you get to harder words. Marie encourages parents and teachers to “fast track” if the student knows how to spell most of the words but does not understand the underlying basic spelling concepts. In this case, very quickly skim the parts that she already knows and slow down on the parts that she needs to learn. Pull out several words as examples. Make sure she understands the concept being taught, and then move on.

      Both reading and spelling should be done daily. If you are using our reading program, we recommend spending about 20 minutes per day on that, and 15-20 minutes on spelling.

      I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions.

    • Merry at AALP says:

      By the way, with regard to distinguishing b and d, Marie has a wonderful article about reversals with tactile ideas, activities using large arm movements, and analogies:

  3. Nicely done!

  4. This is a brilliant analogy! I’ve always been a great reader but a horrible speller. I was taught spelling by random word lists I had to memorize. Makes no sense. I’m thankful I didn’t learn to read that way.

    I am looking forward to AAS with my children. Perhaps I’ll improve my own spelling skills while I’m at it :).

    Also? I want spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.

  5. At my son’s first elementary school, they taught phonetic spelling. The important thing was to encourage young children to hear sounds and recognize letters and dipthongs and use their skills to attempt to spell rather than how to spell a word correctly. The result is now my son is not afraid to learn new vocabulary or write. I don’t criticize his spelling when it’s not correct, I just say good effort and that sounds right. I actually do admire when he takes on a big word, e.g. one of those funny words (like special vs speshul) or words with many syllables.

  6. Very nice and simple way of learning…i enjoyed reading this article.

  7. I learned of AAS when my oldest was in 3rd gr. We quickly went through levels 1 & 2 in the course of the yr. which found the culprits causing him to struggle that I couldn’t figure out. In 4th gr. he completed levels 3 & 4. I must say we were very sad that there aren’t any readers for these as yet. He loved the readers from levels 1-2; I couldn’t believe how much he enjoyed them.

    We are currently working through level 5. I clearly see how he reads much easier than spells as you explain in the video. He still struggles with other subjects when he needs to write a word. He can read it in a heartbeat, most of the time, but figuring out which way to spell it is a different matter.

    My youngest is currently doing the AAR Pre-K, and will move up through the levels, hopefully missing out on the issues that my oldest experienced. Tonight I researched our local library to find they have most of the wordless books you mentioned in another article. I’m so excited and can’t wait to get them! Could you recommend a similar list for say, level 5? :-)

    Thanks for explaining the reason for the split.

  8. We just finished level 1 AAR and are about to start level 2 AAR and level 1 AAS. I have noticed my kids can read SO many words but have no idea how to spell them. So obviously they need different curriculum to learn each.

  9. Wendy Pierce says:

    Teaching the 2 separately has made a world of difference for us. It has taken a lot of stress and pressure off my 9 year who reads “on grade level” but struggles tremendously with spelling.

  10. This makes a lot of sense to me. So many times we’re looking for ways to kill two birds with one stone, but often times this kind of multi-tasking means what is getting done isn’t as effective.

  11. This seems really logical. Excited to explore more.

  12. VIVIAN Mcwhiney says:

    love thise i always said it but did’t know why

  13. I agree – I like the two separate – we are currently just working on learning to read – before we add spelling.

  14. I think it does work better to teach them separately. We already do this in our home school. I think it works out much better. I know our son knows more words that he can read than he can spell.

  15. My oldest son went to public school for Kindergarten and 1st grade, where he learned to read really quickly. Then we brought him home to school him for 2nd and now 3rd grade, I have found that even though he was an excellent reader he had no concept of spelling. We began using your spelling program last January and he has made tremendous progress!! I am now considering beginning my kindergarten son (as soon as he is ready) learning to read using your Reading program. I love your system and the way that you teach the sounds along with the reasoning behind it.

  16. I love the idea of teaching reading and spelling separately! My 5 year old reads exceptionally well even though he’s in prek but spelling has been a lot more challenging. I like that AAR and AAS are designed so he can go at his own speed!

Click to Add Your Comment


  1. […] While reading and spelling might look like topics that ought to instantly be taught together, Marie Rippel– curriculum developer and the author of the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs– suggests a different method. Rippel discusses the benefits of teaching reading and spelling independently in this video. […]

  2. […] order to help your child master each subject, we teach them independently from each other. And by teaching reading and spelling separately, you can progress at your student’s pace until both skills are […]