I just saw a commercial for a rather ridiculous product: Your Baby Can Read! Early Language Development System. After watching infants and toddlers “read,” I just had to visit the Your Baby Can Read! website and find more information on this new educational system. Right away, the homepage boasts that Your Baby Can Read! increases the communication skills and learning ability of children as well as instills greater confidence and future success. But, how does the product work?
How It Works
According to the How It Works webpage for the Your Baby Can Read! product, “[t]he best and easiest time to learn a language is during the infant and toddler years.” Hmm…well, at least this claim is close to the truth. Yes, humans most easily pick up languages during the early years of development. However, this is language acquisition, not language learning. Children do not actively learn their first language(s). Instead, children passively acquire their first language(s) because of their exposure to linguistic input. Want to know more about language acquisition? Go look up Noam Chomsky and his theories on language acquisition.
The webpage then goes on to state that the development happening at this period in life “[allow] a child to learn both the written word and spoken word simultaneously.” Here is where I start to have problems with the claims this product makes. First, the parts of the brain that control speaking and hearing skills are not exactly the same as the areas of the brain that control reading and writing skills. Speech is the primary language system while reading and writing are secondary. People with great speaking skills can lack the ability to read and write well. So, the claim that speaking and reading can be taught simultaneously makes me a bit uneasy.
The claims then continue: “Studies prove that the earlier a child learns to read, the better they perform in school and later in life. Early readers have more self-esteem and are more likely to stay in school.” What studies? How much better? In what areas? The webpage neither cites a source nor explains this claim. Although I do agree that “good” readers have an easier time in traditional school settings, such a claim fails to address different types of learning and intelligence. And, hey, I didn’t learn to really read until the end of kindergarten, way past the age of four mentioned on this website, and I graduated summa cum laude from college and am now pursuing my second masters. Hmm…
But, how does it work? The How It Works webpage never really answers this question.
Who Can Benefit?
I then checked out the Who Can Benefit? webpage to see if I could find any specific information about the Your Baby Can Read! product. Printed in bold and underlined at the top of the page is this statement: “Designed for Children Between The Ages of 3 months and 5 years.” So, the product is for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. That seems like a rather broad range especially since an infant is so different from a toddler is so different from a preschooler.
After providing the target audience, the webpage then continues with another statement about the early years are the best time to learn (no, acquire) language including understanding and speaking “at a high level.” What exactly is a high level? Should I really expect my infant to read the same texts I read? What if my baby only babbles and chews on the corners of cloth books?!
And, then, this statement: “[children] can also learn the written word naturally and easily.” Except, writing is not natural. If writing were natural, like speaking, then children would not have to be taught to write and all people would be able to write. Again, writing (and reading) is a secondary language system. Remember: not all languages have writing systems. And, if reading and writing was so natural, why would the information continue with this: “Normally, children don’t start learning to read until age 5 or 6 years old”? Which is it? Can infants read, or does learning to read happen later?
Without ever using the Your Baby Can Read! Early Language Development System, I can already say that I would never, ever buy it to try it. The claims made on the website are either too vague and unsupported or blatantly wrong. So, Dr. Robert Titzer, I invite you to give me your rebuttal or to send me a copy of your program so I can check out what Your Baby Can Read! is all about.
Book Open on Bed: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leselotte_2_004.jpg