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‘Your Baby Can Read’ Ads Targeted by Child Advocacy Group

By Madeline Holler |

your baby can read, dr robert titzer

Federal Trade Commission asked to investigate baby reading program.

Three-month-olds can’t read. It’s true! So stop feeling like you’re raising the next generation’s slackers when you see the commercials for “Your Baby Can Read,” a $200 multi-media program of flashcards with pictures, books and DVDs.

If you’ve ever seen the ads, you know that they work hard to be convincing. They start with preschool-aged kids sounding out words (hey, you’ve seen a live kid do that before!), then they show snacking toddlers reading from flashcards between cracker-bites (“Hmmm,” you tell yourself. “I guess it’s possible if I actually attempted to teach my child something.”). Finally, there’s a little, little baby, barely able to sit up on her own and idly pointing at her bellybutton. Then you notice Dad. He’s holding up a flashcard that says “bellybutton.”

Damn, that baby can read!

No, no, no, she can’t. The company that claims she can? Well, unless they can prove those babies are reading, they’ll have to stop running the ads.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the same group that brought down the Baby Einstein franchise, is now going after Titzer and his company. They’ve filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that the “Your Child Can Read Program” makes false and deceptive claims about child literacy.

CFCC also accuses the group of making deceptive claims and for targeting their ads to people of disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, where $200 represents a huge financial sacrifice.

At best, experts contacted by the CFCC say “Your Child Can Read” is a program of memorization, but that there is no evidence of reading going on or evidence that babies in the program become better readers in the future.

Among the claims made in the commercials and on the packaging that CFCC calls deceptive, I think the worst is the one that claims if your kid isn’t reading by age 5, the window of opportunity to learn closes. Here’s what the CFCC writes at their website:

The Claim: Your Baby Can Read teaches babies to read during a “short window of opportunity.” “A baby’s brain thrives on stimulation and develops at a phenomenal pace…nearly 90% during the first five years of life! Seize this opportunity before it closes!”

The Facts: There is no basis for claiming YBCR takes advantage of a “short window of opportunity” for reading. It is true that biologists have identified certain times when infants and children are more receptive to learning certain behaviors, such as language acquisition. However, a “window” for reading does not snap shut at age 5.

I can imagine a not very well-educated parent whose kids are destined to attend bad schools might respond to that by calling in their order.

What’s worse is that if instructions are followed, the program encourage parents to put children as young as three months old in front of the TV for more than 200 hours between the ages of 3 and 9 months.

Incidentally, the bellybutton baby mentioned earlier is the daughter of Dr. Robert Titzer, the man who developed and markets the “Your Baby Can Read” product. This guy has made millions from families who respond to the commercial’s underlying premise, which is: babies can read if you’d just figure out how to help them.

The Today Show has been looking into “Your Baby Can Read” claims and the complaint filed with the FTC. They interviewed Dr. Titzer, who stands by his program. He claims to have a large stack of research backing up their claims. But when the Today Show asked to see it, he turned over stacks of customer feedback surveys.

Most laughable is that Titzer claimed that, at 4 years old, his own daughters could read better than him, an adult, PhD who taught college for a living.

Here’s the Today Show video, followed by the whole 2-minute commercial:

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About Madeline Holler

madeline-holler

Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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6 thoughts on “‘Your Baby Can Read’ Ads Targeted by Child Advocacy Group

  1. Ri-chan says:

    It’s not just uneducated people who buy into the scam, I knew a doctor who bought it for his kids too.

  2. cheri says:

    Hey, maybe his 4yo CAN read better than he. And, if so….perhaps he should NOT be teaching anything for a living.

  3. Blanket Press Books says:

    I received a card from this company a week or two ago. I laughed and threw it away – there was, after all, an 18-month old who was apparently reading Harry Potter – but there is always that twinge of guilt because “what if” it works. I know it doesn’t. I would never place a young child in front of a screen, nor would I ever buy a product like this. Yet, there is the guilt.

  4. GP says:

    Why would someone want a baby to read?

  5. Krey Merion says:

    That was the outlook for this mom eight months ago when she and coworker Jessica Simmons began using Dr. Titzer’s Your Baby Can Read system. Their children were then age one. They showed some promise as they used the special flash cards, books edan aharony magnolia management and DVDs then. The working moms made time in their busy schedules to use this system every day, even using it twice a day like the kit recommends. They admit there were a few days here and there where they just couldn’t fit all of this in. However, these women are elementary teachers determined to send their own children to the top of the class. So, are the babies reading as promised?

  6. Sally says:

    I can’t say anything about what it does for babies. I bought it when my son was almost 2, within 3 weeks he started saying the words he saw (and that shocked me since he never sat still to watch it, he was usually playing with his toys) and after three months he could read all the words on the flash cards. Dr. Titzer in his introduction on the DVD says himself that it begins as sight recognition as well as memorization and that after time the kid puts two and two together and can figure out new words on his own. After a few months I got lazy and stopped but he would still want to watch “baby” the DVDs. To this day he still asks to see the dvds. He just turned 3 in January. We have an hour and a half long trip into the city on the train and I always read him books and a few of them, he reads to me. I know alot of the words in the books he knows from memorization, absolutely, but then there’s other words he struggles with but gets right in the end. Example he reads the book “count to ten” he looks at each word and reads it out even though he knows the title and sometimes he says “the” instead of “to” and then corrects himself. Regardless if you take the time to teach your kids anything they will learn it. These days where the not only pluck your chicken but they de-bone it and COOK it and CUT it for you and we buy it up, I could easily make the dvds and write words on a page and put pictures, but do I have the time? No. Good for him to have thought of it first. Even adults learn by memorization. If anything they should just jibe him for his new hair implants and pimp suits.

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