Owing to the shifting debate over time (see "History and Controversy" below), many school systems, such as California's, have made major changes in the method they have used to teach early reading. Today, most[which?] teachers combine phonics with the elements of whole language that focus on reading comprehension. Adams and the National Reading Panel advocate for a comprehensive reading programme that includes several different sub-skills, based on scientific research. This combined approach is sometimes called balanced literacy, although some researchers assert that balanced literacy is merely whole language called by another name. Proponents of various approaches generally agree that a combined approach is important. A few stalwarts favour isolated instruction in Synthetic phonics and introduction to reading comprehension only after children have mastered sound-symbol correspondences. On the other side, some whole language supporters are unyielding in arguing that phonics should be taught little, if at all. 
We searched the following databases in July 2012: CENTRAL 2012 (Issue 6), MEDLINE 1948 to June week 3 2012, EMBASE 1980 to 2012 week 26, DARE 2013 (Issue 6), ERIC (1966 to current), PsycINFO (1806 to current), CINAHL (1938 to current), Science Citation Index (1970 to 29 June 2012), Social Science Citation Index (1970 to 29 June 2012), Conference Proceedings Citation Index ‐ Science (1990 to 29 June 2012), Conference Proceedings Citation Index ‐ Social Science & Humanities (1990 to 29 June 2012), ZETOC, Index to Theses‐UK and Ireland, ClinicalTrials.gov, ICTRP, the metaRegister of Controlled Trials, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, DART Europe E‐theses Portal, Australasian Digital Theses Program, Education Research Theses, Electronic Theses Online System, Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations. Theses Canada portal, www.dissertation.com, and www.thesisabstracts.com. We also contacted experts and examined the reference lists of published studies.
The evidence is clear that young children benefit from opportunities to read text that emphasizes letter-sound relationships they have learned to date.11 This reinforces the value of their hard work and of using decoding to read words. Children’s reading opportunities should not be restricted to decodable texts, or those with only letter sounds they have been taught, but such texts should be a regular part of the reading diet. TextProject.org is a great resource for texts, and information about texts, that support beginning readers to learn to decode, without being as boring or unnatural as some decodable texts are.
Kim Burnim: Prior to phonics instruction children should have many opportunities to listen to and read books. One of the best things that a parent can do is to read with the child every day. This should start at an early age. Many experts believe that it is never too early to read with a child. Even infants benefit from hearing books read out loud. Reading and listening to books helps young children understand important ideas about books that are called concepts of print, such as the fact that you read text front to back, left to right, and top to bottom, and other important features of books. It also introduces them to rich language, which refers to vocabulary words that children might not hear in normal conversation. This is all part of the foundation needed for phonics instruction.
Kim Burnim: Phonics is taught in the early years because it is an important part of learning how to read. Most instruction typically occurs from kindergarten through second grade. In kindergarten, children should learn the sounds of individual letters, and in the first and second grades they should be learning more advanced principles of phonics, such as rules for short and long vowel sounds. But it’s important to keep in mind that children learn at different rates. Some children need very little phonics instruction; others need more. Some children are ready to start learning the sounds of the letters prior to kindergarten, and some children do best with more advanced phonics instruction all the way into third grade. And research has shown that older children who have difficulty reading can also benefit from phonics instruction—which shows just how important it is for children to learn phonics early on.