That's how I was taught to read also, by my mother. My classmates were taught by the "look and say" method, where they were somehow supposed to recognize words by their shapes. I was reading fluently in first grade, and went on to chapter books in second grade. (Teacher read us a chapter of a book every day. I was too impatient waiting to find out how Ozma of Oz ended, so I checked it out of the library! )
Yes. "Phonics" is the way children learn to read (and are nationally assessed) here.
It was also how I was taught how to read as a young child in Australia in the 70s. So it's not a newfangled technique. IME it works. My mum (now a retired teacher) speaks very highly of it as an approach.
I didn't realise how long phonics had been around - 19th century - till I checked out the Wikipedia entry after seeing this question. Looks like it's still considered an effective technique in schools here.
I left that school in the middle of the 8th grade, and my classmates were STILL read. ing. one.
syl. la. ble. word. at. a. time. (Strike 'syllable' -- a long word like that the teacher had to prompt them on.) As a child I never could understand why they had so much trouble, when it was as easy as breathing.
The thing is, she already knew how to read, it wasn't about sounding out words by the syllable, but about spelling them.
It would make sense to use the same technique for kids learning to read, but for kids already reading, it seems counterproductive to keep them saying "kaa" and not "see" for the letter C. I would have been utterly lost if she had spelled say her street name this way.
Maybe her classmates aren't there yet, I don't know much about 8/9 years old...
I forgot which technique was used to teach me to read, I just know it must have been the shaping stone for my learning disability, in a weird way, I learned to read without a problem, coupled with understanding what I read above grade level, but in a dyslexic kind of way, I don't care how it's written so I don't 'care' how I write it (double letters even when they don't make the same sound, ending words the way (plural/conjugated) they are meant to, accents like é and è that I don't 'hear'...).
Grammar and stuff like that doesn't stick, the errors I make in English or Portuguese are the same (double letters) and even tho I have a pretty good (not perfect) grasp of the language I also know and 'use' about zero grammar rule.
So yeah, English is still easier than French in that aspect