I am a teacher. Yes, I know, I teach my kids at home, but I am also a professional teacher. I taught school for eleven years. I even have a Masters Degree in Education. Now, when I was doing my teacher education classes, the big thing in education was Whole Language. That was back in the 1990's and the basic philosophy was that kids learned how to read by memorizing words rather than decoding them phonetically. "Phonics" was a dirty word at my University. Yeah, I know. And I "drank the Kool-Aid," too and believed every bit of it. I guess it was fortunate that I never tried to teach a child how to read back then. I went straight to teaching junior high and by then they should know how to read. Well, between then and now, the pendulum has swung back, I've gotten a bit of experience and with that experience some wisdom and since I'm now teaching my third child how to read, I am seeing that phonics is really the way to teach. Now, granted, some kids do learn to read the "Whole Language" way. In other words, they just kind of "pick up" reading without too much de-coding. Actually, that was me as a child. I was reading before I hit kindergarten and I don't really know how I learned. I just "knew how to read!" But, my kids are definitely phonetic readers.
Another thing that was a dirty word at my University was "basal reader". We'd kind of spit out the word when we'd say it. Basal readers were frowned upon because they was part of a "phonics program", which, I was taught, was a form of torture, similar to the rack or water boarding. A "basal reader" is a reader that uses words that are phonetic and easily read. My University encouraged us to use "real books" when we taught children to read. Well, I'm finding the benefits of these "basal readers." They encourage fluency and build confidence because the words are phonetic and the kids can read them easily. Part of the trick to reading is just to do it a lot. Missie Lou is becoming a pretty good reader. So, I got some of those "I Can Read" books from the library. They're ok, but a lot of them had words that she had not learned the phonics rules for, or were all those exceptions and so it took us forever to read a page. She got really discouraged. One thing about the reader she's in now, is that they are words that she can read and she can read them without stopping a lot. She's becoming a more confident reader, she's learning more and more sight words and so she'll be able to tackle those other books a lot sooner than if I had started her on them. So, it's been interesting, teaching my kids how to read. And I'm learning that those new-fangled ideas aren't always the best. Sometimes, it's better to just stick with the old stuff!