When I was in school (many moons ago), we learned how to read by understanding phonics. We learned the sounds each letter of the alphabet makes and then we learned how to combine those sounds into words. For me, I think that is a great way to learn how to read. If you can sound out all of your letters, then you are able to read just about everything.
Today in school, they are teaching kids how to read by “memorizing” sight words. This is not learning how to read, it’s learning how to memorize. Anyone can memorize words when they are put in front of you. But the real lesson in reading is to be able to sound words out without memorization. Sight words only help with those specific list of words. But what happens when they move off of that list onto other words? Then children need to learn to sound out the words. So why not start by using phonics? That is my million dollar question.
I, personally, started our 4 year old off using phonics. We now have 25 words up on our word wall that she is able to sound out and read. The look of accomplishment that comes over her face when she is able to put sounds together to read words is priceless. And then she is able to put the words on the wall all by herself and she is so proud. To me, the fact that she can sound out these words by using the phonics being taught to her makes me feel proud that we started her early with phonics. As for sight words, we don’t use this list and never plan to.