Or at least that's what the International Reading Association, a whole language support group, would have us do:
Phonics’ arrival on the “not hot” list may surprise many teachers and policymakers who recognize it as one of the five so-called pillars of reading instruction. Explaining its shifting status, Jack and Drew Cassidy point out that many literacy leaders have expressed concern that phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension could be viewed as equally important. “Comprehension and vocabulary instruction are more important than the other three,” Cassidy notes. Debate over phonics instruction fueled the “reading wars” in the 1980’s, leading one unnamed respondent to comment that phonics’ move to the “not hot” list signals that “it is time to move on.” [Emphasis added]
Maybe comprehension and vocabulary are "more important" than phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency once the student is proficient in decoding, i.e., phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency. But, vocabulary and comprehension aren't going to do much good before the student the student is a proficient decoder.
Here's my favorite demonstration of this inconvenient fact. If you're reading this blog you're no doubt a skilled reader with good decoding, vocabulary and comprehension skills. Here's a passage that's only about 80% decodable, let's see how well you comprehend the passage with your decoding skills crippled.
He had never seen dogs fight as these w__ish c___ f____t, and his firs ex__________ t____t him an unf________able l_____n. It is true, it was a vi_______ ex_________, else he would not have lived to pr_____it by it. Curly was the v_________. They were camped near the log store, where she, in her friend__ way, made ad_________ to a husky dog the size of a full-______ wolf, th____ not half so large as _he. __ere was no w_____ing, only a leap in like a flash, a met_____ clip of teeth, a leap out equal__ swift, and Curly's face was ripped open from eye to jaw.
It was the wolf manner of fight__, to st___ and leap away; but there was more to it than this. Th__ or forty huskies ran _o the spot and not com______d that s_____t circle. Buck did not com______d that s_____t in_______, not the e___ way with which they were licking their chops. Curly rushed her ant________, who struck again and leaped aside. He met her next rush with his chest, in a p________ fash___ that tum___ed her off her feet. She never re_____ed them. This was __at the on______ing huskies had w______ for.
This is, of course, what reading looks like to a kid who can't decode very well. It's a lot of fun isn't it? I bet you wish you could do that all day long. I'm sure you'd just gobble up books one after the other.
And we wonder why some kids aren't motivated to read.
Thank you, International Reading Association, for all your crackpot schemes.