I've literally watched children teach themselves to read.
We teachers notice it often. It happens while sitting in preschool circle waiting for classmates to arrive or leave. Or a child sits in front of the Words in Color charts. Not infrequently, a child will start pacing back and forth in front of the reading charts for a spectacular show of learning capacity.
Children look at the (24) Words in Color charts to find a new sound introduced in a lesson. The sound is identified with a specific color. Every spelling for each sound is on the fidel or phonic code charts. Other charts hold words that make up every sound group and spelling. The children will eventually be introduced to 59 sound groups and the 400 English spellings that make up the groups.
It all begins with Chart one, sometimes called Pop Ups as it was identified when played on NBC television over 40 years ago during commercial breaks. My children and many of the children of parents who read this blog learned to read using Caleb Gattegno's Words in Color and method. This Pop Up Video was played in class or we began with the first three charts of these sounds. We teachers gave the sounds just as you see in the video and the children spontaneously made the sounds after they were introduced.
Where did I learn this? From Janice Mattina, founder and director of Center Montessori School. Janice taught us what she learned and brought Caleb Gattegno, founder of Words in Color to her school for workshops.