I was taught how to read using a system called I.T.A., which has faded into relative obscurity. My first grade class was, in fact, the LAST classroom in our school district to use I.T.A., as the district was transitioning to more 'modern' phonetics-based learning systems.
At the end of my first grade year, I was allowed to take home as many I.T.A. books as I wanted. I have a rather nice collection somewhere in my basement which always serves as high entertainment when it is brought out. You see, I.T.A. not only uses the standard English alphabet, but it also uses a set of symbols that represent specific sounds. The basic theory is that children learn how to read faster when letters, words and sounds are standardized - and as we all know, the English language can sometimes be rather wacky.
For some reason, I was struck with a burning need to look I.T.A. up on the web tonight. (Probably because it's come up in several recent conversations with friends about the literacy methods being used in our local schools.) You can learn more about it here, in an article which includes a chart of the symbols and the sounds they represent.