Triticale found this quote:
Children used to learn to read one letter, or, at least, one syllable, at a time, and to furnish forth a complete word by piecing together its component parts. Now, rumor says, the method is to encourage them to grasp whole words, long or short, at once, by instantaneous observation, or, as often happens, by an effort of the imagination. When the word grasped is the word the letters spell, that is observation. When it is some other word, that is imagination. The development of either faculty is considered by contemporary educators to be useful.
The quote comes from Edward Sandford Martin’s Lucid Intervals — great title! — written in 1900.