Let me describe the two approaches to reading: word-recognition and phonics.
In word recognition, a learner is shown flash cards with words to pronounce as soon as they are shown and read by the teacher. These words are then incorporated into a synthetic story where repetition of the words is the goal rather than giving a substantive narrative. With this method, a number of words are assigned for first grade, second grade, third grade and so on. Proponents to this method like the fact that a learner can read immediately a word that has just been taught as a whole word.
However, this method has three drawbacks: 1) one cannot read a new word that has not been taught, 2)our short-term memory has a limited capacity; it can kick out words previously learned in order to accommodate new words to be learned, 3) the method could build a habit of word guessing using strategies of correlating to pictures on the page or other context clues instead of directly decoding the word through sounding out the letters.
In contrast, the phonics method utilizes the same approach we used in encoding the words we speak. Words are made up of letters, letters have sounds. To read, we break down the word into its component sounds then put them together, blending them into the given word. Once we master the code, we can decode everything and we can read everything.
There are only 26 letters of the alphabet, each with its own sound. There are 44 sounds of the English language. To symbolize sounds beyond the sounds of the alphabet, we use two-letter combinations to represent long vowels, consonant digraphs (sh, ch, th, wh), and diphthongs (oi, oy, au, aw, ou, ow). There are 21 of these sounds. Of the 26 letters of the alphabet, we only count 23 sounds. "C" and "k" are counted as one sound. "X" is counted as a final blend. "Qu" is counted with the two-letter combination group, thus we only count 23 single sounds with the alphabet. 21 plus 23 make 44. Along with other forms for making the same sound, there will be about 72 lessons.
If we learn one lesson a week, 72 lessons will take us 72 weeks or a year and a half. If we learn two lessons a week, we cut the time in half to 36 weeks, less than a year. If we learn 3 lessons a week, we cut the time to 24 weeks or six months. If we learn four lessons a week, we cut the time to 18 weeks or 4 and 1/2 months, a summer break. It can be done, painlessly and efficiently. Let's read!