I can’t tell you how many times I have begun to write about the Your Baby Can Read Program….and stopped. If you could see the drafts in my dashboard or the notes in my ideas pad, you’d see. Not many of us could have missed the commercials showing months-old babies ‘reading’ or rather, what seemed to me more like spitting out the words printed on flash cards. I’ve seen the ads in reputed magazines and websites and have wondered, more than once, among other things, if the program really could be what it claims. An effective, scientifically designed approach to teaching babies as young as 6, 8 or 10 months old to READ.
Somehow, I myself was never drawn to trying it, just as I was never drawn to Baby Einstein DVDs, when it came to my daughter. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the fact that you could sit your child down in front of a screen and expect her to learn, interact and expand her mind did not quite seem right. Besides, I wasn’t even sure I was comfortable with watching babies…infants really…READING! I mean, the commercials were impressive – they actually showed you little ones recognizing words with as many as ten letters on sight. And although I marveled at a program that could accomplish this, I wasn’t sure if the babies should even be working on ‘reading’ from flash cards at that age. I wasn’t sure how or why the program worked and what kind of long term effects it may have on young minds. Besides, both Baby Einstein and Your Baby Can Read seemed to encourage at least some screen time – which again, did not sound like good advice to me.
Since I wasn’t really sure about how I felt about the program and whether I wanted to recommend it or was even willing to try it, I never really got around to publishing those blog posts in draft mode. However, I just came across this article, courtesy of Karen Nemeth, @KarenNemethEdM and realized that my uneasiness wasn’t unfounded after all.
Watchdog Group Cries “Foul” On Early Reading Program
It turns out that the same watchdog group that successfully campaigned against the way Baby Einstein DVDs were marketed as educational tools, has now filed a complaint against Your Baby Can Read as well. They’re now saying that this program is not just ineffective and a false ploy to get parents to shell out money but also that it may actually be doing more harm than good to young minds.
Is The Thrill Of Word Recognition The Same As The Joy of Reading?
I am no scientist nor early childhood learning expert. But, as a regular ol’ mom raising a regular ol’ baby who didn’t and couldn’t read when she was 10 months old, I can tell you that this exact thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. Even as I was flabbergasted that a child so young could recognize words, I was also pained to see little kids who in my view should have been exploring picture books and playing peek-a-boo on their parents’ laps were in fact being trained to do something that seemed unnatural for their age. Sure, it was great that they were ‘reading’ so young, but what good could that possibly achieve? How could the ability to recognize words that they probably didn’t even understand help expand their vocabulary or language learning? I had no answers, but every time I came across the program, I did have more questions. For me and so many parents I know, reading to our kids is a pleasure, a source of relaxation and an experience of pure joy. Exploring books – whether they’re picture books, comics, Mother Goose rhymes or a bilingual storybook – with my daughter is something I love doing, probably as much or even more than she does. And it is that anticipation of joy and the unique bonding experience that makes me pick up a book to read to my daughter each time – not the hope that maybe she will begin to read before she is supposed to, developmentally speaking. Sure, I point to words and pictures and label them. Sure, like every other kid, she pretends she can read, even though we both know she’s repeating from memory. And yes, now that she’s inching towards her 5th bday, she does show interest in letters and letter combinations and the sounds they make – yes, she’s actually begun to learn to ‘read’ – as is appropriate for her age. Sure, now that she appears to show interest and seems to have the ability to recognize and sound out letters and words, I’m paying more attention to the way we read and what we read, so she has more opportunities to build on her new found skill. But, not once throughout this process of reading to my daughter over the past 4+ years have I ever felt the need, inclination or pressure to coax her to begin ‘reading’ before she was ready to. So, I guess the biggest question on my mind regarding the Your Baby Can Read program is the motivation behind it itself. Why? Why would parents want their babies to begin reading even before they could talk, stand or sit up on their own? What could possibly be so appealing about a program that trains babies to do something they will eventually do in a few years’ time anyway? Why was it so important to teach babies to read when they could have been spending that time engaged in finger play or story time instead? Ok, so your baby can read, but why do you want her to?
Milestones In Minutes?
I’m not sure how scientific the Your Baby Can Read program is or whether this campaign will be successful as the earlier one – but what I do want to explore is, why are we in such a hurry to ‘teach’ our babies a skill that they are bound to pick up anyway when they are ready. With time flying as it does and the universal acknowledgment of the fact that childhood years pass by far too quickly, how is it that some of us are willing and eager to cut them short even further?
Of course, since I have never tried the program and know little about how it actually works, I would love to hear from someone who has tried it and has an opinion to share. Have you tried Read to Your Baby with your child or know someone who has? Please jump in and leave your comments. Would love to hear from you and understand your views from the perspective of a parent who has actually seen the product at work.
As for me – although the day my daughter begins to read independently will be a proud one for me, I’m pretty sure not all my tears that day will be those of joy. There surely will be a tear or two lamenting the fact that my daughter won’t need me to read to her any more! But, boy will I be glad I had some 4+ years to get there and not mere months.
What’s your take on Read to Your Baby or, for that matter, any program that accelerates development of any kind in kids. Is it worth getting them to master a skill or reach a milestone ahead of time so they can be better prepared to meet the challenges of a competitive world or would you rather let them be kids for as long as possible?