Your Baby Can Read? Probably not. Thankfully the company has finally gone out of business, after having duped more than a million sets of parents with false promises of creating infant-based literacy.
For years, my blood pressure was brought to a dangerous level (well, okay, I never put it to the test but I imagine it was) each time those maddening commercials came on the TV espousing the importance of teaching my infant to read NOW. As in, before he’s eating solids or sleeping through the night.
My kids are reading now, thank you very much. They’d better be: they’re eight and 10. They learned when they were in kindergarten. Go figure (more on that later).
Anyway, each time these idiotic ads came on TV pushing the Your Baby Can Read product, I got annoyed for two reasons:
1) You can’t “push” developmental skills like literacy on an infant (and seriously, studies show that any advantage gained by early readers—and I guess that could include those at, um, 12 weeks as well as four years—are lost by the time kids are in second grade); and
2) These folks are seriously preying on the insecurities of new parents—that they must do everything possible for their child or they will somehow fail her—or on the vanities of parents, who want to create their own super smart, reading-by-age-one “genius.”
Here’s a tip (borrowed from the title of a book): Einstein never used flash cards.
The summer before my son started kindergarten, my husband wanted me to teach him to read. I balked. I’m not a teacher, and didn’t know if he was ready. I didn’t want to make him see reading as a chore. I worked with him once; he couldn’t get the word “the” from one page to the next, and I had no patience; I called it a day and told my husband I was leaving it up to the professionals.
Later on, when he was in school and learning his sight words fine but still not doing very well with his little assigned books, my mom had a great idea: Create a short book all about him (and his dogs), weaving in the sight words and highlighting the story with photos and clip art. I did, and presented it to him when he got off the bus. He loved it, and read the whole story, cover-to-cover. He asked me to write more stories, which I did over the next few weeks. He’s been reading, nonstop, ever since.
Turns out, he was developmentally ready to learn, and needed just a little push via materials that were especially interesting to him. (I mean, what little kid doesn’t like to read about himself?)
His sister? She also didn’t learn to read until kindergarten and has become a pretty voracious reader herself. And she used to love to mock those Your Baby Can Read commercials. Mainly because she’d wonder how an infant could hold a book and turn the page properly, and then discuss what he’d read with his mom. For her, if you can’t say, “Hey Mom, listen to this,” there’s just no point.
- Your Baby Can Read Company Going out of Business (abcnews.go.com)