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This is the biggest question in K-12. All success in elementary school pivots on this question.
The answer is obvious. Sight-words become vocabulary words when the child sounds them out. At that point, we might say, the child transcends cold, almost useless graphic design and appropriates it at a phonetic level.
Sight-words are read slowly, haltingly, incompetently. That’s not reading, although the Education Establishment would like to pretend it is. These pretenders have gone to great lengths to keep everybody confused, to use terms as if they are synonyms, to make it impossible for parents to understand the true goal of reading.
Whew. You can be exhausted simply by thinking about millions of children spending their young lives on a useless task, memorizing sight-words.. You don't want to memorize a graphic design. You want to know how to crack the word’s code. This is easy.
All the phonics experts say 99+% of children can learn to read by Christmas of the first year. Isn't that wonderful?!
See "Sight-words vs Vocabulary Words," a good article on http://canadafreepress.com/article/k-12-sight-words-vs.-vocabulary-...