Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I Think About--My Baby Can Read

My Baby Can Read!  But should s/he?

Let me first say that I do not have these “reading” tools but I know some gals who do and I’ve seen them advertised.

As a parent and educator I am against the "Baby Can Read” tools and here is why:

First I think we should question WHY it matters if baby can read.  So you can brag, “MY baby can read”?  So you don’t have to read to baby?   Because the advertising is so effective that you think you are actually harming your baby if he or she can’t read before s/he is two?  There are times when I think we want to know if something can be done so much that we forget if it should be done.  This is one of those cases.

Before I explain why I do not like this program, let me note some positives.

A child who is already reading when s/he enters school will likely be successful at reading in school. The prior ability gives them more confidence in reading and promotes success. (Think back on your education years.  If you were in the advanced reading group, you felt pretty good.  If you were in the slow readers group, you felt pretty bad). 

This being the case, many parents want to help their children read but don’t know how to so they rely on programs like this to teach their kids and the programs are great at getting parents involved in their children’s education.  This is a positive step and most successful children in school have parents who tutor them at home.

While the product does have some positive qualities, let me explain why I do not favor the program.

First, this educational “tool” is marketed in hopes of scaring parents.  If we don’t use the tools, if our babies can’t read then they won’t have the best advantages in life and will be behind.  But is this true or is it marketing? 

Secondly, studies have shown that true reading (and educational) success develops out of a love of reading, not from memorization and words.  Memorization does NOT equal education.  Further research indicates that by ten years of age, early readers are at the same level as the late readers, IF they both love to read. It equals out.

Thirdly, pushing children (especially boys) to read too early can make children hate to read.  Who wants to raise a child who hates to read?

Other data indicates that children who read too early can have eye-tracking problems and can lead to visual issues. Our eyes are meant to go across the page to read a sentence around seven years of age, which is why books for young readers keep sentences short so that young readers are not reading across the page but just one or two words at a time.

Fourthly, I have no doubt that children using the My Baby Can Read  program will learn the words/pictures/actions and they might be able to call out words on a page.  But reading is more than saying words.  Need proof?  Read and do the following:

Por favor, abra la ventana, sacar la cabeza, y gritar me encanta el pastel de queso de chocolate.

Chances are if you took Spanish in high school you could remember some of the words or at least pronounce them.  But do you understand what you just read?  Did you open the window, stick your head out, and scream, “I love chocolate cheesecake?”  If not then you understand what I am talking about.  Just because your baby can “call out” sight words does NOT mean he or she understands what he or she is reading.

Many educators are worried about the effects of teaching children to read quickly without developing comprehension.  This program will exacerbate this problem.

Finally, our children will learn all of these things (reading, phonics, math, astro-physics) in their time. Its called Developmentally Appropriate Practice. Let your children develop at the pace that is right for them.

M.E. "reading" her book.  She's learning about people, shapes, and colors without watching TV, decoding or memorizing (because who wants to do more work than necessary on the potty?).

My bottom line
Research consistently shows that reading, talking and singing to children helps them develop language and reading skills.  Our little kids need to be little. They learn more through play, exploration, and interaction than through any other tool—including watching “educational videos” (and remember the AAP suggests NO screen time for kids under two).

As a mom, I’ve made it my mission to encourage my children to love books and reading by reading to them and letting them see me read. 

My baby can’t read! 
My 4 year old can’t read!
But I can read and I love it!  So let’s cuddle up and rock some Peter Rabbit!

M.E. and Daddy cuddle and read.


  1. I agree! Can I just say those commercials totally freak me out! Little babies with baby curls and bottles should not be "reading" or memorizing cards.
    I love what you said about reading being so much more than decoding or memorizing what words look like. As an SLP, I would much rather see a baby being held close, talked to, read to, and shown things in real life than watching a video or looking at flashcards. Reading books teaches kids about language and story-telling and life. They can figure out the decoding later if they have a good foundation in language. The above picture is the kind of things that will grow our children to love reading and to have great communication & language skills. Eli is all about letters and their sounds, but that has been his own interest from playing with his letter magnets and looking at books. That seems much more natural to me. I can't imagine trying to get him to read as a baby who hasn't even mastered walking or eating or speaking in sentences. By being talked to and read to they will learn so much.

    Okay. That was really long. Sorry. Thanks for the post.

  2. Long comments are always appreciated (especially when they agree with me! Ha ha!).

    Your input as a SLP and mom is valuable and I'm grateful you shared.

  3. AMEN!!!!! I hate those commercials! Another thing to point out--true reading is phonics based, NOT memorization based!


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