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Monday, April 6, 2009

Your Baby Can Read Program - Good or Bad?

A friend asked me this weekend about the Your Baby Can Read DVD program. She had just bought it for her daughter, who is little over a year old, and was wondering what my thoughts were on the program. Unfortunately, I don't know a ton about the program. At least I didn't yesterday. I sat down today and did some research on it though. All I had known about it previously was what I had seen about it on some morning news shows (marketing the program, so all glowing reviews of course).

At this link you'll find a great review of the program from the Literacy, Families and Learning blog. I tend to agree with Trevor Cairney's thoughts on the program, though I have no first-hand experience with it myself. 

Here's my slant on this issue though:
  • Motivation is the most important literacy skill. If your child's not motivated to read, they won't do it... unless they have to. Motivation comes from having fun and meaningful experiences with words, books, and reading. These types of programs always seem to fail in creating meaningful and fun literacy experiences. And when I say "meaningful," I mean that children should be connecting with what they're reading - experiencing it, and understanding it. 
  • The one source of motivation these kinds of programs seem to provide is the motivation to please the parent. I feel that when reading instruction is introduced too early, often a child learns that reading is something that you do to please your parent, or to gain your parents' approval. Instead, the motivation to read should come from knowing that reading has a purpose (I can learn things when I read), and that it brings one pleasure (I enjoy a good story). (See the book Motivated Minds: How to Raise a Child that Loves Learning for more on this.)
  • Programs like these usually leave a bad taste in my mouth because I feel they can encourage parents to view their children as a kind of status symbol (My child can read already, can yours?). It's hard in our day and age not to feel like you're in competition with the rest of the world to have the best and brightest child. We put too much pressure on our children to grow up too quickly, and this seems like yet another product to encourage that. 
  • What children need is someone to snuggle up with them everyday and read them a good book, or two, or ten! They need you to talk about the story with them, point at the words sometimes, ask them questions, do an activity that relates to the book, etc. Make books and reading come alive for them and they will want to read. They will love to read. And they will learn to read when they're ready. 
  • Research has shown that children who learn to read early don't necessarily do better in school or have any advantage over children who learn later (at the usual age). In fact, forcing reading instruction too early can sometimes have the exact opposite outcome. 
  • I like to think of a life of reading as a marathon. Think of "The Tortoise and The Hare." Slow and steady wins the race, right? When formal reading instruction is introduced too early, reading and learning can become a sprint instead...
So, to the friend that asked me about this yesterday. I'm sorry I didn't have a better, more informed, response at the time. Again, I have no experience with the program myself. So I would love to hear thoughts from those of you who do! Tell me what you think. Do you disagree with these thoughts? Perhaps I'm way off base here. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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1 comment:

Dawn said...

Thank you for bringing this important issue up! I completely agree with you, and feel that technology cannot replace time spent reading with a parent or caregiver, especially for a child under the age of 4. During the preschool years, though, something like a computer game or DVD can be used as a supplementary activity (if a child enjoys it).

Everyone wants their children to read so quickly these days. Even nursery schools are pushing specific skills, but I believe that children must learn to value reading as an enjoyable and entertaining activity first. The best thing parents can do is to read enthusiastically with their children, and independently in front of them, on a regular basis.