Whole language reading instruction (also known as "look-say" or "sight" reading) is the most widely used method of teaching reading in the U.S. and many other countries. Its development dates back to early in this century (for more information, see our upcoming book Turning the Tide of Illiteracy), and its continued use is based on two factors, one factual and one . . . emotional.
whole language is said to be "literature-based" because students are expected to learn these words by "reading" them as teachers read stories aloud. After they have thus "read" them enough times they will recognize them and be able to read themselves. This sounds much more compassionate than the drill and repetition necessary to intensive phonics instruction. Drill and repetition, after all is boring and would inhibit proper emotional growth of children. Furthermore, learning to read while being exposed to more interesting stories will give young students a greater appreciation for great literature.
A friend once complained to me that she didn't want to teach using phonics because the memorization necessary to learn phonetic rules for English is so repetitive and boring. It struck me then that whole language is nothing more than rote memorization of every word in the English language.
But go read the whole thing.