Are you using programs that tell you that you can teach your baby to read? Do you have flash cards that claim they can open up a whole new world of opportunity to your baby? How about DVD programs that say babies as young as three months can learn to read? Stop wasting your time and set it aside for later. A new study conducted by New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development says that these tools don’t instill reading skills in babies.
“While we cannot say with full assurance that infants at this age cannot learn printed words, our results make clear they did not learn printed words from the baby media product that was tested,” says Susan Neuman, a professor in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Teaching and Learning and the study’s senior author.
It’s not the programs themselves that are problematic, although one can argue that their fantastic claims are. Neuman said to The Atlantic, “I think it’s a problem of the issue of development. These children do not have the internal capabilities to learn how to read at this young of an age.” It really doesn’t matter what program you use, babies are not reading because they’re not ready.
The study found that the biggest effect of the reading product was on the parents. “In exit interviews, there was the belief among parents that their babies were learning to read and that their children had benefited from the program in some areas of vocabulary development.” So basically, parents spend a few hundred bucks to feel good about their babies learning, even if they’re not learning. All this is a parent issue, not a child issue. Too bad there isn’t a high-priced program that soothes parents’ fears and allows them to follow their young children’s lead.
As someone who spent 10 years teaching the beauty and variety of the English language, I have no problem with reading programs. I have one myself that I bought to use with my oldest daughter when she was a little younger than 2 ½. She was showing signs of readiness, so I went for it. When my second daughter was that same age, she wasn’t interested, i.e., not ready. I backed off until she was.
I’m not a reading specialist or an expert on child development. My own experiences and intuition tell me that children are better off when parents play with them, read to them, and narrate the world around them. Don’t forget to be seen reading. Parents are more likely to raise engaged, lifelong readers and learners that way.
What do you think? How young is too young to learn to read? When and how did your children learn to read? Share your thoughts below.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.