Ever seen one of those commercials for the “Your Baby Can Read” programs? The ones that use videos and flashcards to teach babies as young as 9 months to read? Think those ads sound too good to be true? The Federal Trade Commission thinks so, too.
According to the Associated Press:
The agency has filed a complaint against the man behind the “Your Baby Can Read” program, Robert Titzer. The FTC accuses him of false and deceptive advertising for promoting his program in ads and product packaging as a tool to teach infants as young as nine months to read.
The company has agreed to a settlement amounting to $185 million, equal to its gross sales since 2008. Most of the settlement will be waived due to the company’s current state of failure. It announced earlier this year that it would be going out of business, citing the cost of fighting allegations that its ads and claims were false.
Shocker, huh? Because we all thought babies who weren’t yet verbal could learn to read. And we all put in offers to own a beach house in Nebraska.
When I first heard of this product in about 2008, I asked a reading teacher I know what she thought. She was able to give me a fairly comprehensive answer about children’s brain development and the timeline of literacy emerging. But I’ve totally forgotten what she said because my son was less than a year old and, not only was he not reading, he was not sleeping. That whole year is a blur.
What I do remember is that she told me that any success babies have with a program like that is from recognizing words as images, not as language. Basically, they could remember that the word “cow” means that they should say “cow” much as a picture of a cow means cow or a video of a cow chewing it’s cud means cow. They don’t know what the constituent letters are, what sounds they represent, why those sounds together mean anything or how they letters could be used to make other words. They just know what those letters look like in that combination and that they should respond with the word “cow”. It’s image recognition, not reading.
The teacher also reminded me that plunking babies in front of videos is almost never truly educational. So there’s that.
As we’ve all heard a million times, the best thing to do for eventual reading success is to read to your child. Snuggling up and reading stories together will benefit your baby more than a set of flashcards or a DVD. And it will be more enjoyable for all of you!
Photo credit: Photo stock
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