Most primary schools "do phonics" to some degree, but this is still often considered as a dull chore, similar to trying to get kids to eat some greens while they would prefer to enjoy more palatable food. Reading is probably the most researched subject in education but even among professionals there are still doubts over whether phonics is really the right method to be used. However, the evidence for the superiority of Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) is overwhelming and all teachers and parents around the world should know about it.
The whole point of SSP is to explicitly teach the correlation between the 44+ different sounds we use when we speak and the 175+ different ways of writing these sounds on a page using letters, syllables, words and phrases. A real building game to be contrasted with the much longer and painful way of having to memorize every word you want to read. Research has shown that starting with phonics is much more effective than all other approaches.
Moreover, the good news is that whole-word recognition - what scientists call orthographic representations - will happen automatically with practice; it is indeed a second important step, but only a second step. Then, once children are able to decode the symbols of language and combine them - which can go very fast - it's crucial for them to read regularly, both at home and at school, in order to build up a rich and powerful orthographic and vocabulary store.
Picture: An Interlude, by William Sergeant Kendall (Google Art Project, Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)