Reading Babies?

Before I even gave birth to Wesley, people started telling me about this “amazing” program called “Your Baby Can Read.” Now, I’m sure I’m speaking to other parents, so likely you’ve heard about this program yourself.  In a nutshell, babies as young as 18 months are shown on these infomercials reading. They may not be able to speak the words, but they prove their ability by an action: clapping for the word “clap” or pointing to their nose for the word “nose.”  If you haven’t seen it, it’s an enthralling commercial – very convincing.

Well, for a long time, I was pretty against this idea. First, why would a baby need to read? Shouldn’t he be rolling around on the floor, putting toys in his mouth and exploring the world naturally? It seemed against my very unschooling ideals. Second, are these kids actually learning to read, or just like trained monkeys, exhibiting a desired action when presented with a particular stimulus? And, third, it seemed that even if the kids could read, parents must be pressuring them by forcing flash cards and videos on them for hours a day. It seemed to me to be one of those things parents want for their own sake; to be used almost like a party trick. You can see, I had some huge reservations.

But, I felt that I had to investigate further. What if these kids not only could read, but loved it? What if they were learning to read in a way that was like playing and I was depriving my child by not giving him that opportunity? It just seemed like one of those areas where I couldn’t not have an opinion backed up by solid evidence.

Then, I learned about a book called “How to Teach your Baby to Read.” I bought it for the steep price of $1.00 off of Amazon. I was drawn to it because it was written decades ago and has reputedly helped many parents teach their young children to read who are now adults and who, according to the book’s authors, have a great love of reading and do it quite easily. I also liked that it was the parent who taught the child, not a video (which, I’ve read, can have detrimental effects on babies, regardless of content).  Plus, they give all of their theory and the research they’ve had that comes to that conclusion. It is a cheap way to learn more about this realm of reading babies, and I do recommend it to curious parents.

So, for reasons that I will explain tomorrow, here is what I’ve come to: flashcards as per the book whenever I think of it, plus an occasional (4-5 x week) viewing of the 20 minute video.  Yes, TV is evil, we all know that, but it’s near impossible to raise a child to 2 years old (which is the recommended age) without seeing any television. So, if he’s going to watch some, I’d rather it be something with large letters that can possibly do him some good. Also, he absolutely loves it. This isn’t the “love” that kids have to TV when they just stare mesmerized, but he laughs at the girl touching her nose, he excitedly bangs things around him when the gorilla comes on, it’s as though he’s interacting with the video. I really do think he’s getting something out of it.

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One Comment on "Reading Babies?"

  1. Natalie
    25/10/2009 at 11:12 am Permalink

    I’ll be interested to see how you feel about it over time. I came across information on the Doman Method recently as I think they’ve just relaunched some products or something like that. I think John Holt was the one I read about putting labels with big clear lettering up around the house on the thing they related to, which just seem like flash cards in situ to me. Dayna Martin wrote something about that being a bit too contrived for her but they have words around the house in other forms such as on artwork or knick knacks or calendars or whatever.

    It makes sense to me and as my kids love books, I’ve started to think about more ways of introducing things to them if they want them. I haven’t pushed my 4yro or taught her beyond what she picks up on her own, but her desire to learn to read and write is so strong, I’ve started looking for fun ways to approach it to help her do more.

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