When we throw away phonics as the first and primary method of decoding and switch to whole word (whole language) method, we are telling our kids something that isn't true. We are saying that there is no code — that there is no order to the development of language. That words themselves are the blocks of the language. But words cannot be used as parts of a whole. In other words, you make words from letters but you don't make new words by splicing two or three other words together. So, in fact, words are not the blocks of the language — letters are!
Whole language advocates believe that all children will learn to read naturally, just as they learn to talk and walk; that simply immersing children in good books is all that is necessary to produce fluent and capable readers. Phonics advocates, on the other hand, believe that all a child needs to become a fluent reader is a healthy dose of phonics in kindergarten and/or 1st grade, that is, exposure to a sequential and explicit phonics program that teaches the alphabetic code and how it works to represent speech.
Unfortunately, this "Great Debate" between the whole language proponents may make fun of the "drill and kill" of phonics and tell parents not to worry if a child isn't reading by 3rd grade. In fairness, whole language teachers and researchers have made all educators and parents more aware of the importance of immersing children in outstanding children's literature (both before, during, and after formal reading instruction).Whole language and phonics camps has resulted in more than a generation of school children losing out on some critical knowledge that is essential to reading well.
Either philosophy practiced in isolation deprives children of experiences that are critical to becoming literate adults. This causes another problem — the problem of thinking. If we begin by the whole word method, we are encouraging a number of practices. We encourage and reward memorization and...