I think the idea that kids left to learn naturally don't use phonics strategies is incomplete.

I have very young kids (4.5 and 2.5), neither of whom can read. But my 4 yr old loves phonics, and has for a long time. He started asking years ago about the letters and what sounds they make, and can sound out most simple words. He loves the "puzzle" decoding aspect of the phonics, much more than he cares to read books. Even the two year old is fascinated by letters and letter sounds, and asks about them frequently.

I've certainly heard of other kids like mine. There may be more now than there used to be, because of computer reading games.

There's an explosion of tablet/phone games for small children that focus on phonics, useable by toddlers, and I suspect that there will be more and more kids using those strategies themselves.

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