I was one of those children that took off on reading. My older sister played school with me one day, and I was off and reading. This occurred at such an early age, that I have never had any memories of not being able to read. This made it very difficult for me to figure out how to teach my own children.
I originally figured that pure phonics was best - and read a couple of books on that. I started my oldest 2 children, Delta and Echo (then 4 and 2) on "How to Teach your child to read in 10 minutes a day" by Sidney Ledson. It uses very short lessons, and games to teach. My children did very well to start, and would ask to play the games - but I did find that they started to not like the main game very much. I modified it to just reading little cards. I went a lot slower with the Echo, and we have had a lot of breaks in the reading. Delta got to the point that he could read with a lot of effort, but didn't want to put in the effort. So I paused on the instruction to consider. At their ages, I didn't want to do anything they didn't enjoy.
I got very cheaply a book called "Teach your Baby to Read" - which used Flashcards. This method sounded interesting, as it used extremely short lessons several times a day. (reading 5 words and that was it.) Of course it is using sight reading - but this seemed like a good way to break into fluency. I talked to a couple of relatives who were teachers about reading instruction, and gathered that a combination of phonics and sight reading seems to work better. So I started using computer generated flash cards - picking words that Delta and Echo would be most interested in. I also started some with Foxtrot, using the suggested order for babies. All 3 children loved the computer flash cards - with the older 2 loving the computer generated voice. (For Foxtrot, I said the words.... I don't want a computer accent.) I also created a couple of very personal books for Delta and Echo with the words they learned. They loved this.
Not long after, Delta started reading some words spontaneously. For instance, I would look on our TV's program guide, and Delta would say "There is Caillou" (which we do NOT watch - and darned if I know how he figured out that that was the name of that show with the weird spelling...)
Then I discovered CM and AO - and read on CM's reading instruction suggestions. And they make sense. I found the Treadwell and Free readers, and printed the Primer off. They are good literature stories, with a lot of repetition. Although we haven't read them regularly, Delta has read the first 3 stories, with just some assistance on "harder" words like "thresh".
In all, I think the combination of all 3 things I have done has worked out fairly well, although the process took longer than I originally thought it would.
Delta is on the brink of fluency, and should do well with continuing the Treadwell Readers.
Echo is at the point on "10 minutes a day" that she is learning by reading sentences, but has to really work at each word. Delta was at this point for quite a while. I haven't done as much work on the reading instruction with her after having found out about CM - but expect to have her asking to do more once the "school" year starts with Delta
Foxtrot is of course just learning to talk. She seems to recognize that print is something interesting - and anytime she has a board book, she spends a long time looking at the pictures (and maybe reading it?) and never tries to eat them, or tear them.
As for the age of reading instruction. Apparently CM didn't give an exact age for reading instruction, although the couple of examples she gave, the children were age 5, and 6. It does seem a very controversial matter in CM circles (and other circles too.) My opinion, as long as the lessons are short, the students enjoy them, and important play and outside time is not missed out on, I see early reading as beneficial. Many others disagree. I leave it for you to decide for yourself.