A few years ago, a program designed specifically for babies came out that claimed it could teach a child as young as nine months to read. When it first came out, a few of my friends wanted to try it, but I had doubts from the beginning. As a teacher, I knew that teaching children to read can begin early, but not in infancy. I was relieved a few years later when the company that made the program was sued and shortly after went out of business.
Infants Need Time to Be Infants
Infants and babies under a year old can’t learn to read. That’s the bottom line. Children can begin to have phonemic awareness at around three to four years old, but teaching those types of literacy skills to babies just won’t work. In fact, it may even stress your child out and make them have negative feelings about reading when they get old enough to actually start reading.
The program claimed that children can start reading chapter books by the time they’re three years old. In one of the “home videos” featured in the $200 program, it showed a three year old girl reading Charlotte’s Web and the mother exclaimed that her daughter started to read Harry Potter shortly after.
I have no doubt that the program seemed to work for some children, but only because children that young can learn to repeat and memorize large amounts of text if they are subjected to it often enough.
Beware of Similar Programs
Moms and dads should know to avoid similar programs like Discover Reading Baby Edition Deluxe from Hooked on Phonics and Little Reader from Brillbaby.com. Unlike Your Baby Can Read, these programs make sure to mention that children may only be memorizing, which looks like it could help your child start reading later in life but be wary, they may cause more harm than good.
Teaching your child to read too early can overwhelm their neural circuits and impair brain development. Just think about like this. You’re teaching your child advanced subjects before they have the necessary vocabulary, speech skills, and even facial recognition skills they need to process normal everyday things. Trying to teach them something they’re not ready for could cause them to be confused and actually delay the reading process.
While some children actually can learn to read by the time they’re three, most don’t. In the same way, most normal three year olds can’t learn to play the piano, but some do. Just be careful how much you try to teach your children before they’re ready. Let them be infants while they can and let them develop at a normal rate. Don’t force it.
- Bright, Paul. "Why early baby reading programs can be bad for your child's brain." Yahoo Contributor Network. Yahoo Voices, 25 Jan. 2011. Web. 6 Jan. 2014.
- Sharps, Linda. "'Your Baby Can Read' program advertisements are a dirty lie."The Stir. The Stir, 29 Aug. 2012. Web. 6 Jan. 2014.