Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Your Baby Can Read" - no he can't

This is Ryan reading his current favourite book - Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert.

I've mentioned before (see this post) that it was never our intention to push Ryan to read early (ie. earlier than four) and that it was a surprise to us when he started reading when he was 2 plus. Even though he has started reading, we maintain the same approach - that there is no need to hurry him to read at a more advanced level. So, we still give him simple books to read - lots of picture books, even some board books as well - and we haven't bought more advanced books. There are still a lot of wonderful books at this level that he hasn't read yet and that's really the point of learning to read isn't it - to enjoy the stories in the books.

Despite us making very little effort now, Ryan still manages to advance his reading skills. He picks up words everywhere - from signboards, from the newspaper headlines, from labels, from watching Tom & Jerry, etc. He decodes them phonetically and, although he doesn't always get it right on the first try, he does surprise me a lot of the time when he reads out a "difficult" word.

If you have been following Ryan's reading progress, you would know that I do not support teaching your child to read by flashing words (flash cards / videos). I have tried it and I never felt comfortable.

The flash card programme that we tried was "Your Baby Can Read" which comes in a set of 5 DVDs and books. There are actual flashcards too, but we did not buy those. We read the books and watched the DVDs, although not at the recommended frequency - we watched them once every few days and definitely never more than once a day. "Your Baby Can Read" is just one of the many early reading programmes out there which are based on drilling words, by using flash cards or videos. The Glenn Doman method is another example (and for those of you who are curious - Shichida does NOT teach reading by flashing cards).

Every time I sat Ryan in front of the TV to watch them, I felt terrible. He was only a few months old and he had no choice in the matter. He couldn't even crawl away. After a while, I couldn't stand it anymore and we stopped, with great relief. At the time we stopped, we knew a few people who were using "Your Baby Can Read", Glenn Doman and similar programmes with their babies but we kept our opinions to ourselves because these parents would never have taken our word for it and we didn't want to offend them by telling them they were doing the wrong thing.

If you haven't heard by now, "Your Baby Can Read" has gone out of business (last month), apparently due to the high cost of fighting complaints alleging that its claims that its products would teach babies to read were false. See these links:

"Your Baby Can Read" claims overblown, experts say
Your Baby Can Read going out of business
"Your Baby Can Read!" is out of business

Basically, 10 child development experts across the USA were consulted and they unanimously agreed that the babies were not actually reading. The children were memorising, not learning to read and they were certainly not learning any reading skills. As I wrote in this post, there is nothing revolutionary about the method - the principle is that, if you repeat something often enough, it will stick, which is how you memorise things - repeat it over and over again.

When I was in the hospital after delivering Rachel, my colleague visited me and saw Ryan reading "Dr Seuss' ABC". She told me how her daughter, at pre-school age, could read 17 picture books flawlessly. She thought her daughter was a genius. When her daughter was in Primary One, her teacher told my colleague that her daughter could not read at all. She was shocked. It turned out that her daughter had simply memorised all 17 books. She tested her daughter - showed her a picture of a pair of eyes with the word "see" below it, read out the word "see" and, when she showed the picture and the word again to her daughter, her daughter said the word was "look". My colleague went through the 17 picture books, covered all the pictures, and asked her daughter to read the words. Her daughter couldn't read a single word.

So, if you are teaching your toddler to read, my advice would be to read to him more, talk to him more and play with him more. That way, your child can actually pick up reading skills and words won't be just things which your child memorised one day and may forget the next day. And, if your child is just a baby, don't bother him with learning to read - babies have more important things to do!


Anonymous said...

Totally agree, Leona..

Why on earth do babies need to learn to read at such a tender age.
Babies / children are very fast in picking up or learning things.
when they are ready, they will. why the hurry, right?


Subscribe to our feed



(function (tos) { window.setInterval(function () { tos = (function (t) { return t[0] == 50 ? (parseInt(t[1]) + 1) + ':00' : (t[1] || '0') + ':' + (parseInt(t[0]) + 10); })(tos.split(':').reverse()); window.pageTracker ? pageTracker._trackEvent('Time', 'Log', tos) : _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Time', 'Log', tos]); }, 10000); })('00');