- Mexican train carrying 1,300 migrants headed toward U.S. derails
- Secret Service begins regular K-9 patrols around White House
- Pentagon’s human memory-chip program moves forward
- Obama blasts GOP, ignores immigration crisis in Texas speech
- Marine Warfighting Lab tests the Godzilla of amphibious assault vehicles
- Harry Reid: Birth-control ruling the worst Supreme Court decision in 25 years
- Vet suicides ‘horrible human cost’ of VA dysfunction: lawmaker
- First marijuana customer in Spokane says he was fired
- Hagel: ‘Make no mistake,’ ISIL is an ‘imminent’ threat to U.S.
- Armed militia sets up Texas command center to ‘fight for national sovereignty’
Is infancy too early for reading?
Question of the Day
It is an infomercial darling, with cute kids pointing out words on cards to the delight of their parents. “Your Baby Can Read,” a system of DVDs, word cards and books, touts that infancy is the ideal time to give children an academic head start. Thousands of parents have purchased the $200 product since it was developed in 1997.
“Your Baby Can Read has made Evan a happier baby,” one mom says in company promotional materials as her toddler reaches for the word card she designated. “Evan enjoys stimulation and connections. When he learns something, he wants to keep going. At 19 months, he can read more than 500 words.”
So will little Evan be tackling Shakespeare by age 3? College-level analysis by age 7? Headed for an academic rebellion by age 10? Tough to say, but Robert Titzer, inventor of “Your Baby Can Read,” says his own daughter is a good indicator of how fostering early reading can lead to a love of learning.
Mr. Titzer, who has a doctorate in human development and has researched infant learning, developed the prototype for “Your Baby Can Read” 18 years ago, when his daughter was 3 months old. By 9 months, she could identify — by acting out, as baby language centers are still developing — 30 words, he says.
“I knew she was learning language skills at a rapid rate,” he says. “I was studying how babies learn, and I wanted a video that was multisensory and interactive and not mindless entertainment for babies.”
What Mr. Titzer came up with was a production that shows a word, for example, “clap.” It has a voice saying the word, as well as arrows showing left to right, the direction in which the word is read. Additional voices may say “baby is clapping,” additional footage will show a baby clapping, and, eventually, the baby watching the footage will clap, too. Mr. Titzer says this kind of sensory give-and-take is what children need to learn.
“Infants are learning more about language earlier than people realize,” says Mr. Titzer, adding that early reading has an impact on all kinds of higher cognitive functions.
“The best and easiest time to learn a language is during the infant and toddler years, when the brain is creating thousands of synapses every second — allowing a child to learn both the written word and spoken word simultaneously, and with much more ease,” he says.
Mr. Titzer says the natural window for learning a language is from about birth to age 4, with the peak in synaptic connections occurring by 12 months. The current practice of teaching children to read when they start school after age 5 is too late, he says.
“The earlier the child is taught to read the better they will read and the more likely they will enjoy it,” he says.
Yale neurologist Steven Novella agrees that those first four years are a crucial time for learning. If a child were deprived of sensory stimulation and language during that window, he says, he or she surely would have some language and learning deficits.
However, he takes issue with “Your Baby Can Read” equating language with reading.
“There is no window of opportunity for reading like there is with language — adults who have never read can learn how to read,” he says. “While our brains are preprogrammed to absorb language, reading is more of a cultural adaptation.”
Dr. Novella says what “Your Baby Can Read” is teaching is generally whole-word reading, meaning memorization of sight words without regard to phonics.
“These kind of approaches have been around a long time,” he says. “There is a focus on raw memorization. That’s about all babies can do; they don’t have a developed language center at that age. You have to ask, ‘Is there any long-term advantage to teaching children tasks before their long-term development is up to it?’”
About the Author
Karen Goldberg Goff has been a reporter at The Washington Times since 1992. She currently writes feature-length stories on a variety of topics, including family issues, pop culture, health, food and technology. Follow Karen on Twitter.
- Sweet smell of success
- Overbooked parents see little respite over holidays
- Experts debunk December suicide myth
- Having a baby in the fertility maze
- Lovelace's books remain relevant for today's girls
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Ted Cruz
Banning speech with a constitutional amendment is playing with fire
- GOP: Lerner warned IRS employees to hide information from Congress
- IRS employee suspended for pro-Obama activities
- HUSAIN: The fake caliph of 'The Islamic State'
- Va. Democrat reportedly seeks nude shots of Kendall Jones
- HUSAR: Mexicos Pena Nieto passes the immigration bucket
- Amid border crisis, Obama to take 15-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard
- Illegal immigrants showing up at border with 'Yes we can' Obama shoes: report
- Armed militia sets up Texas command center to 'fight for national sovereignty'
- Jesse Jackson hits Obama for putting immigrant children first
- Facebook allows 'Kill Kendall Jones' page, but deletes her game hunting photos
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq
World Cup's sexiest WAGs
U.S.-Ghana World Cup opener