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Should Baby Read?

by on Feb.01, 2010, under Behavior, Learning, Parenting

I heard a radio advertisement this week for a DVD , Your Baby Can Read, or some name like that.  Needless to say, it grabbed my attention.  This program promises to teach your toddler, even infant, to read.  A mother of a three year old claimed that she had been using it for a year, and now her child was reading on a third grade level.  Please save me from being sick!  It took everything in my body not to drive off the road…as I seethed.

Why on earth does anyone want her toddler (or infant) to read?

Then I saw in the newspaper today that Docia Zavitkovsky had died.  Docia, a matriarch in our field, dedicated her entire 96 year life to young children, to raising consciousness about the importance of our children’s early years as the foundation for a rich and satisfying life. She was the founding mother of Play Matters, a nonprofit organization that places play at the heart of early childhood. What would Docia have said about this advertisement? I shudder to think.

I am not sure which part of the radio advertisement bothers me the most…that parents are pushing their children in the exact wrong direction? That parents are so competitive in today’s world that they are taking desperate measures to give their children a perceived advantage that can actually be a disadvantage?  That merchants and advertisers are taking advantage of naive parents, making money off of them? It all bothers me.

It reminds me of Baby Einstein. The inventor made a fortune off of all those parents who were convinced that pouring images into their infants and toddlers via a screen would actually make them smart. Have you all thrown out those DVD’s yet…or better, asked for a refund?

How do you grow a child?  Our very youngest children are nourished by interacting with people and with their environment. They learn and grow by feeding the right hemisphere of their brains with sensory and emotional and social experiences, through interacting with all that they encounter in their world. Learning in the early months and years of life is about play, exploration, trial and error.  It is priming the pump, laying the foundation for learning to read and other left brain experiences at the right time, and that is much later. How interesting it is that you can teach a toddler to recognize a word by repeated (boring) exposures to that word, over and over and over. But show him that word when he is six years old, and he’ll have in a minute or two.  And to top it off, he’ll even know what the word means!

Would it be too evil of me to cross my fingers that Baby Can Read is a total flop? I pray, for Docia’s sake, that not one more DVD is sold.

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