It's true that you have to use phonics to read any language, but reading is always far more than just decoding text. Alfie Kohn writes:
The key claim that needs to be evaluated, of course, is whether “we’d do a lot better if we brought back good old-fashioned phonics.“ Let’s begin by clarifying what we’re talking about here. “Phonics” refers to the relationship between symbols and sounds. A child with “phonemic awareness” is one who can “decode” a letter or pair of letters (such as th) and knows how to say it. By way of an overview of the discussion to come, we might tease apart three questions that usually get lumped together. First, do kids need to learn phonics? (Answer: yes.) Second, do kids need to be taught phonics explicitly in order to pick it up? (Answer: some do, but most probably don’t.) Third, if kids are taught phonics explicitly, does that have to be done with the usual “drill ‘n skill” techniques demanded by traditionalists? (Answer: hell, no.)If you need more information on why Dibels and other phonics-on-steroids programs are at best unhelpful and at worst harmful, check out The Truth About Dibels: What it is, What it does.
Here are a couple posts I've written on spelling: