Whole language and phonics each have their strengths, and must be included in an effective approach to reading. However, phonics is over all more important when it comes to reading in English.
Why phonics is more important
Whole language helps kids see words in a context, thereby increases their understanding of words, but phonics is more valuable because it is much more efficient when it comes to learning to read. Phonics gives kids the structure of the language so that they can use it to analyse and pronounce or spell new words.
Showing rhyming patterns through phonics
Through sets of rhyming words like cat, bat, rat, mat; hot, cot, pot; fit, sit, mitt; bite, white; might, right, fight, etc. they begin to see a pattern. If cat, rat, and bat all have the “at” sound at the end, then so will “mat”. Primary grade children can learn consonant sounds and blends through groups of words starting with the letter “s” (repeat this process for each one of the 26 English letters), and then the vowel sounds for letters a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y (which can make a long i sound in words like “usually”). Explain that when there is a silent e on the end of a word like “mate”, the “a” says its own name (A) instead of “aaa” (short vowel sound), and the same is true for all the other vowels in this situation.
Now it is time to work on consonant blends. You could start with blends starting with “s”. There are “sh” sound words like “sheep” (here you will later teach that two es together make one long e sound), “ship”, “shore”, etc. Then there are “st” words like “store”, “storm”, etc., “sp” ones like “spell”, “spoon”. Eventually, you will show that the above blends can come not only at the beginning of words but at the ends of them, too. That’s just a start. The children will also have to learn about weird words like “laugh”- why does that end with an “f” sound?, “knife”- thanks to a language carryover from German we still have this letter in front of what is pronounced “nife”?. They will also need to know about question marks, exclamation points, quote marks, and much more.
Whole language relies heavily on sight reading, whic slows the process of learning to read down. There are common words such as why, what, who, where, and because that will have to be memorized, but fortunately English has a system it tends to follow quite a bit of the time. Although it does not follow its own system as faithfully as languages like French, teaching English phonics still gives a child a terrific foundation for reading and writing English. That makes it the most efficient way to instill confidence in a young reader and writer.