The research is clear.
Systematic, intensive, direct-instruction phonics is the most effective method
for teaching reading.
Phonics Steps to Reading Success is most effective because it teaches students systematically to read accurately by blending sounds left to right.
With accurate reading, comprehension increases.
More research on the effectiveness of phonics-based reading instruction is available from the National Reading Panel that "made it clear that the best approach to reading instruction is one that incorporates explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, systematic phonics instruction, methods to improve fluency, and ways to enhance comprehension".
Readers need to understand that words are not whole units (as is taught in the current and failed look-say and sight-word methods) but, rather, words are made up of individual sounds (phonemes) strung along together, from beginning to end.
So-called mixed or "balanced" literacy approaches do teach some explicit phonics. However, they also include failed, experimental reading approaches that require the students to guess at words, skip words, or read the first few sounds of a word and make up the rest to try to make sense in the sentence.
In fact, in the largest, most comprehensive evidenced-based review ever conducted, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) reported that phonics instruction "strongly supports the concept that explicitly and systematically teaching children to manipulate phonemes significantly improves children's reading and spelling abilities. The evidence for this is so clear cut that this method should be an important component of classroom reading instruction."
The NICHD report concluded that the most effective reading-instruction methods included explicitly and systematically teaching the phonics concepts. Moreover, students must learn to "sound out" or blend the letter/symbols of the English language, left to right.
One thing is certain, phonics and phonemic awareness are the most effective ways by which students master reading skills.
Reading, spelling and comprehension are not learned by simply viewing printed words or guessing at clues. Instead, the ability to use phonics, to sound out words using proven and effective "word attack" strategies -- is primarily responsible for mastering the ability to read.