Betty - posted on 07/05/2010 ( 37 moms have responded )
You’ve seen the infomercial – a baby sitting in a highchair with mom proudly holding up flashcards that the baby is READING. The voice comes on: “Now with our special program your baby can read!” Huh. My first thought when I saw this was - why on earth do you want your baby to read? Don’t babies have really important things to do – like finding their toes and crawling? My second thought was – what a scam. You don’t need to buy an expensive program to teach your baby to read – all you need to do is read books together. Honestly – it’s that easy.
Anyone who has consistently read books with a young child knows that very soon, with repeated readings of the same book, the child starts to “read” the book. That’s exactly what should happen – and it’s a natural way for kids to start reading. One of the first steps in the reading process is simply word recognition – memorization of “sight” words. A regimented course of expensive DVDs and flashcards will apparently do the same trick – but here’s what that scenario is missing: YOU. (Okay, technically you’re holding the flashcards… but bear with me here…) Reading to your child is about more than just learning to recognize words. Reading with a young child is as much about the connection that the child and the adult are making with each other by sitting together and sharing a book as it is teaching a skill. Reading is a chance to relax, talk, and enjoy being together – and it should be fun, not a lot of work. And if you have a library card – it’s free.
Children who become lifelong readers are children who think of reading as an enjoyable experience. The child who sees mom and dad reading, is read to often in a relaxed happy way, and experiences all sorts of books, is the kid who will likely be reading early and love reading. I worry about the kid whose parents approach reading like a skill-set to check off the list, or worse, believe that a DVD can replace one on one reading time. Kids who are taught to regurgitate sight words in this way will likely hate reading, and what’s worse, they’re missing out on valuable together time with a parent. No DVD (no matter how awesome) can replace the human interaction of reading together. Babies thrive when they are held and talked to – not talked at.
So if you’re considering purchasing a reading system – consider this - your child will learn much more from interaction with you than he/she will ever learn from watching DVDs or flashcards. Do not spend money – spend time. When you read a book with your child you get to stop and say, “Look there’s a worm on this page – remember all those worms we saw on the sidewalk last time it rained?” Now you’re increasing vocabulary, you’re teaching narrative skills, you’re bonding with each other – and you’re having a lot more fun than you would have had if you’d simply plunked your baby in front of a DVD to learn to “read.” So, while these amazing baby reading programs may work – I don’t think they work very well. My money is still on the good, old-fashioned method of reading a book with your child (over and over and over again). What are your thoughts on this? (And don’t even get me started on a certain DVD series named after a super-brainy scientist that is targeted at infants…)