Guessing what words say is not a valid reading strategy.
“In the first spring of the pandemic, as families across the country were acclimating to remote learning and countless other upheavals, I sat down on the living-room sofa with my daughter, who was in kindergarten, to go over a daily item on her academic schedule called Reading Workshop. She had selected a beginner-level book about the alliterative habitués of a back-yard garden: birds and butterflies, cats and caterpillars. Her decoding skills, at that stage, were limited to the starting letter of each word, and all else was hurried guesswork—pointing at “butterfly,” she might ask, “Bird?” and start to turn the page. I coaxed her to look at how the letters worked together, to sound them out, starting by taking apart the first few phonemes: bh-uh-tih, butt. She didn’t appear to be familiar with this approach. She seemed to find it frankly outrageous.”