Phonics plays an important role in the English language. Grasping it or not can be the difference between a reader and a nonreader. To understand why phonics is so important, it is helpful to understand its role in the English language.
The English language has three types of components. When we teach these, we should teach them as parts within a system. By understanding the system or how the parts work together, we better understand the role and meaning of the parts.
The first component of our language is its words—that is, its vocabulary—each word usually having multiple meanings and most words being usable in more than one part of speech: that is, as verb, noun, adjective, adverb, and so forth.
The second—and most important component—is the relationship between the sounds of our words and their spellings. This Phonics for Keeps text does just this: it teaches students how to single out and, therefore, tell apart each vowel “sound” and consonant “sound” in English so they can then—through instruction and practice—learn to interrelate words’ sounds with their spellings and spellings with their sounds. This is what helps struggling students become good readers—and good spellers, writers, and learners, too.
The third component of English is the choice of—and position of—words, groups of words, and punctuation inside a sentence to reveal, cause, and/or change the meaning of that sentence and its parts. For example, see the difference between the role of “to” in the sentence “He came to say goodbye” as opposed to the role of “to” in the sentence “He came to a decision.” This aspect of our language is its grammar or syntax. See The Hunter Writing System: Sentence Sense textbook.