New research has found that phonics is inferior to the whole language method of teaching children to read.
The research was carried out by Brian Thompson of Victoria University and Associate Professor Claire Fletcher-Flinn of Otago University.
It compared New Zealand six-year-olds with their counterparts in Scotland, where phonics is used extensively.
The researchers found the Scottish children were slower readers and had more difficulty spotting made-up words.
Phonics is based on teaching the word-sounds of letters and how they make words, while whole language relies on reading practice, whole word recognition and context.
Professor Fletcher-Flinn says phonics is useful only for the first few weeks of children starting school.
The research is due to be presented at a conference in Dunedin this week.