I’m sure some of you have heard of the Your Baby Can Read program offered by Your Baby Can LLC. The Today Show did an intriguing piece on how this program can mislead parents focused on doing all they can to ensure that their child grows up to be an exemplary reader. If you go to the website, it offers NO scholarly support for its alleged results. Robert Titzer, the program’s founder/creator, does not offer any type of credible rationale for this program. He’s not the only one, though. Selected other infant initiatives (Baby TV and Babyfirsttv, and Baby Einstein to name a few other examples) cannot explain the superlatives of their programs by linking it to early childhood/child development theory. I am stating this as my own professional opinion as an early childhood education expert.
No, ladies and gentlemen, infants CANNOT read. They “read.” If they can sound out words that they “see” in front of them, then they are simply repeating what has been repetitiously repeated to them (Machado, 2009). In other words, they are mostly just sounding out memorized sounds (Berk, 2009; Charlesworth, 2010). Infants really cannot see well enough to read because their visual acuity is still maturing (Santrock, 2008). Babies until the age of two are mostly “thinking” with their senses (eyes, ears, hands, noses, mouths). The center of reading is within the mind. Children ages 0-2 cannot yet carry out many activities inside their heads (like reading) (Berk, 2009; Charlesworth, 2010). Reading is a complex process that integrates eye coordination, eye movement, alphabetical knowledge, phonological knowledge, phonemic awareness, and phonics into a smooth operation. Just sounding out words that children have seen over and over again (like in the above named programs) is not reading. In fact, besides doing a bit of harm to the baby by overexposing him/her to television at that young age, such programs are actually stifling these children’s growth by focusing narrowly (and improperly) on one developmental domain rather than guiding the child to development physically, socially, emotionally, as well as cognitively (Brewer, 2006)
There are some programs that are VERY credible (WestEd’s Program for Infant and Toddler Caregiving, High Scope’s Infant Toddler Curriculum) because they focus on the developing exploratory nature of the child as he/she transitions from a sensorimotor viewpoint of the world to a more “operational” (mental schematic processes) viewpoint of the world conducive and palatable for early literacy development (which includes writing and talking as well as reading) (NAEYC, 2009). This usually emerges between 2-4 yeas of age.
Please be cautious of these “baby learning programs.” The best way to nurture your child’s development (not just reading) is to interactive with him/her positively, consistently, and lovingly with a conversational bent (Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, 2008; Gerber & Weaver, 2003)…and please turn the TV off