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Sorry, Mom: Your baby cannot learn to read

We love books in our household. Before our son was born, my husband and I read each other's books to learn more about one another. And, when our son came along, we immediately started to fill his library with books we could read aloud to him.

But not once in all that time did I think that our baby could read. I mean, at three months he wasn't able to emit sounds that didn't sound like a baby pterodactyl, so I was pretty sure that reading was a long way off.

And that is why I was baffled to read that the New York University's education school created a study on the effectiveness of media in teaching babies how to read. (Spoiler alert: Babies can't learn to read. They are babies.)
As part of the study, one group of babies were given the Your Baby Can Read program, while the other group received no specialized program. After seven months, the researchers assessed several metrics of language development and reading comprehension. There was no difference between the two groups.

One of the most significant findings of the study was not about the babies' abilities, but of their parents' beliefs. The study found that most of the parents truly believed that the programs were teaching their baby to read.

Now, I know that we parents all believe that our little critters are talented and gifted learners (and they truly are). But sometimes, I think we need to take that step back and try to look at things from an outsider's point of view. Because, sometimes, we parents act really crazy.

So, your baby can't read. But you can, so, read to your baby. Often. Build their vocal skills before working on the reading skills. Just be prepared for the never-ending conversation that results.

Did you ever try a baby learns to read program? What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments.

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Comment by Marcia Fowler on March 4, 2014 at 12:21pm

I never used a program. However, when I was a reading specialist I saw a few kids whose parents thought Hooked on Phonics was all it took.

As you say, read to your kids.  My feeling is that kids have their whole lives to read to themselves.  But we have only this tiny time of early childhood to read to them and snuggle with them. Take advantage and read to them, especially those books that they want re-read over and over.

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