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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Your Baby Can Read (but shouldn't)


Am I the only one who keeps hearing ads on the radio and tv for programs that will help teach your baby (yes, I repeat BABY) how to read? I've also had a couple of moms in my baby classes in the last year ask me my opinion on these programs. Although I usually feel like I am pretty good at giving a semi-unbiased answer to moms when they ask me questions..... I just can't on this one. I STRONGlY disagree with teaching an infant how to read with these crazy canned flash cards (or videos). However, I believe that most parents who use these programs are really good parents who are just being lead astray by misleading advertising and societal pressures. Even if these programs can teach a baby to read off words on a flash card, they have absolutely no context to help this to be beneficial. There is no good research to show that these programs would have any long term benefit on infants/toddlers, and in fact, most good research would tell you to avoid these programs like the plague (well, maybe not like the plague... but maybe like you would avoid having stomach issues in a foreign country). The fact that we try to teach tiny infants to read... is so telling of how many parents today are pushing their kids to achieve earlier and earlier. I know that as a parent, it is worrisome to think that maybe your kids are going to be behind or not be given the right experiences that they need to thrive. I remember when Sofia was a toddler, there was a mom who proudly told me that her 22 month old daughter could say 454 (or something like that) words. She wondered how many words Sofia could say, and I had no idea. I hadn't realized that it would be necessary to keep track so that we could all compare... but I knew that it wasn't 400 something.
It is always comforting to me (and should be to all of you great parents out there), that research tells us that the many of the things we do intuitively as parents are the best things that we can do. Reading to our kids a lot, singing with them, playing with them, giving them opportunities to explore and learn, hugging and snuggling them etc....... I am no where close to being a perfect parent, and in fact, most days I feel like I feel short in many ways, but I am just chipping away at my imperfections (does anyone else remember Bro. Rookhouzen saying that all of the time in Sunday School). Babies are for snuggling and loving on, not for drilling with flashcards. If anyone is ever interested, I love BAM radio. Rae Pica (a leading expert in childhood health and movement) interviews different leaders in the field every week about different parenting topics. Scroll through and listen to the interviews that look interesting, but I have loved having the information from these 10 minute interviews as I don't have as much time to read as I would like.
http://www.bamradionetwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=34&Itemid=66&limitstart=70
Thanks for letting me vent on this topic. I feel better now :).

9 comments:

Steve & Sarabeth said...

Parents often ask me when is the best age to start a kid on piano. My general answer is "not too early!", because when you push them before they are really capable of learning well, they almost always end up hating it. I'd be willing to bet the same goes with reading (or anything)...if you're putting so much pressure on the kid to read this early, they are NOT going to develop a love for reading - maybe even a strong dislike for it. It seems a lot smarter to wait until they're ready and eager to learn.

Kara said...

Just out of curiosity Sarabeth, when do you think a kid is ready to start piano lessons. Obviously every kid is different, but in general? I think I started maybe when I was 8? If only I'd stuck with it like you :).

adrienne said...

So my mom actually ordered this for me with totally wonderful intentions. I was so wary of it and very skeptical, but I love my mom and she had put a lot of thought and love into this gift. She thought that since I've got 3 kids in the recommended age range it would help me create more teaching moments. I was actually in a lot of turmoil over what to do, because I didn't want my mom to spend that kind of money on us for something I didn't agree with. Luckily for everyone, when she got it, she realized how ridiculous it was to have such a rigid reading program for babies. I don't think she knew that it was a very strict time consuming program. So she sent it back and I felt so much better. And I'm sure my kids will still learn to read!

Karli said...

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! My grandma wanted me to get it long before I started hearing the commercials. I couldn't BELIEVE the price for something like that when research shows that just reading to your kids gets them pretty far ahead in life. It seems to me the ONLY purpose for a program like this is bragging rights for the parents.

Karli said...

Oh, and on the topic of good parenting websites, I LOVE Half Full Blogversations: Science for Raising Happy Kids. They have wonderful articles about various parenting topics that are well researched. You can read it at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu.

Steve & Sarabeth said...

Generally, I think 4th or 5the grade. You can start them a little younger, but if you start them around age 8-9, they'll learn the basics WAY more quickly than if you start at age 5-6...so they'll get to "point B" at the same age either way, so why pay for extra years of lessons? And like I said...they're more likely to enjoy it if you start them later, because the quicker mastery of concepts/skills gives them motivation to keep going. This is all just my opinion, of course...I'm sure there are other piano teachers out there who would disagree with me!

Amanda Nemelka said...

Agree with you 100% Who wants a reading baby? It's weird. And pointless.

Kara said...

Thanks for that link Karli. Sarabeth, thanks for the info.... I am all about saving a buck..so I guess I shall wait till piano is more developmentally appropriate :).

Karli said...

My grandma called again tonight offering to pay for the system for me. I politely told her thanks but no thanks. She was stunned. I'm pretty sure she likens my refusal to child abuse.