At a coffee shop, I overheard a mom bragging to her girlfriend that her infant son learned to read using the Your Baby Can Read DVDs. He’d watch the DVDs while she drove her fancy car with built in DVD players. Later, when I saw it on sale, I bought it just in case I’d need it. You know, to make sure my daughter wasn’t behind.
We’re all looking for the perfect program or class to develop our latent baby Einsteins. Which is why the $199.95 Your Baby Can Read 5 DVD program (yourbabycanread.com) is so enticing -- wouldn’t it be great if our babies were geniuses and could read?
Of course, implicit in the marketing is the assumption that our babies should read if we are to Keep Up with the Joneses, make our babies smarter, more athletic and genius artists.
Except, when I looked at child development research, I found that baby’s brain cells need time to grow and develop synapses. This happens with touch, stimulation, play, good nutrition, and that sort of thing. It takes time.
So, I’m the proud mom of an adorable little baby girl whose brain development is just grasping Roll over. Sit. Stay. No.The Love and Logic books call this “The Basic German Shepard.”
As I tried to convince myself that my baby would learn to read from a DVD and that the American Academy of Pediatrics was wrong when they say NO screen time for children under the age of two, I left the DVDs unwatched atop my TV.
I learned that as our babies grow into a toddlers and then into a walkers, brain cells grow that allow speech. Speech develops as mimicking – a sort of cave-man talk. “Me, go.” “Baby want up.” It’s how all children develop language, even a second language. They’re not able to match subject-verb agreement because they’re only imitating what they hear, not generalizing the rules of language. (Think dolphin.)
Here’s the other thing that bothered me about that overheard coffee shop conversation -- Why? Why do we want our babies to read anyway? To beat out all the other kids?
The Your Baby Can Read creator, Titzer, claims on his website, “When children develop reading skills during their natural window of opportunity, from about birth to age four, they read better and are more likely to enjoy it.”
Not true says decades of research. Learning to read early means you learned to read early. It doesn’t mean that you are going to love reading.
Titzer’s (so-called) research is customer surveys and observations of his own daughter. Hardly scientific.
The actual scientific research says that significant problems can result from teaching children using adult academic methods like flashcards and drills. Kids will have difficulty with outside-of-the-box thinking by late elementary school (Einstein Never Used Flashcards. Hirsh-Pasek, K., MichnickGolinkoff, R., Eyer, D., 2003), and new research suggests that kids might develop learning disabilities (Different Learners, Healy, J. 2010).
I sold my DVD set unopened. Like P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
I almost was.