Teaching Babies and Children to Read

When the girls were very young (about 9 mos. – 18 mos.), I showed them the Your Baby Can Read series for about 20 minutes each day.  They watched NO other TV during this time (not the news in the family room, cartoons, or anything else) and read tons of books.  The idea was definitely not to create some baby geniuses, but rather just replace any other mind-numbing TV they might have otherwise watched with Your Baby Can Read.

The object of the program is to teach young children that symbols represent meaning.  This is not unlike unlike how very young children recognize waving means “bye bye,” except they are being taught to recognize the written symbol as opposed to waving or “high fives” or other symbols. The videos also teach them that words are read from left to right in English.

Clearly, simply sitting your child in front of a TV for 20 minutes a day isn’t going to teach them to read.  My basic strategy is to point out the written word (in books, in stores, wherever) – and use my finger to underline words from left to right.  This has also taught my kids from a young age to read sentences/linking words.  I’ve labeled random stuff around the house (was fun for my older child, my younger one could care less).  Finally, I am an avid reader myself so they also pick up on my enjoyment of reading – teaching by example.

Can only gifted kids read early? Disclaimer: I am not an educator, but I do believe you can teach nearly any child to read earlier than kindergarten. Lily (our 3.5 year old) is primarily memorizing words still, but has begun sounding out words for the past 6 months (without formal instruction).  Lucy did this at first, but by 3 years old she was able to sound out words phonetically – also self-taught.  Lucy probably hasn’t sounded out a word since preschool, though…. the phonetic sounding out process lasted just a few months with her.

Having our kids read earlier than the average age has had some wonderful and unexpected advantages!

  • Since the age of 4, Lucy has read for leisure (before bed to lull herself to sleep, when she’s bored, riding in the car, etc.)  This is SO helpful during downtime waiting at the doctor’s office, airports, or driving to school!
  • Lucy has never had to work on the mechanics of reading, so her purpose is leisure and to gain knowledge when she reads.  Because of this, I suspect we have saved ourselves thousands of hours!  Most parents spend years teaching their kids the mechanics of reading.  Additionally, there appears to be mounting evidence that kids who aren’t reading at grade level by 2nd grade NEVER catch up.  It seems to me that this doesn’t give much margin for error for either student or parent.
  • My kids both LOVE LOVE LOVE reading, and can read very fast.  Lucy can read a 350 page chapter book in the time it takes me to highlight my hair at the salon (yes, this is empirical evidence!)
  • Lucy can pick a topic – say, the nervous system, and do research on it without having to sound out words or struggle through phonics.  For us, this means that we have time for more fun!! Instead of spending hours every night learning to read between the ages of 6-8… it’s given us a lot more free time than we would’ve otherwise enjoyed with our children.  It’s also given Lucy the opportunity to participate in more extracurricular activities without the worry that we aren’t spending enough time reading.

I know there is some criticism about the Your Baby Can Read program, but it seems to me that Lucy and Lily are terrific examples of how the program can be used to save mom and dad hundreds (thousands?) of hours.  If that isn’t reason enough to push a busy but reluctant parent to try it, what is?  I can’t understand why anyone would criticize a program that promotes literacy.  For us, it’s about balance and enjoying life through reading!  It’s definitely money well spent, in my opinion.

I know this blog is very young, but does anyone else have experiences (good or bad) with Your Baby Can Read?

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