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Sorry, but your baby shouldn't read

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that the "Your Baby Can Read" infommercials use deceptive marketing to get parents to buy its DVDs, flashcards and other materials. I'll leave it up to the courts and lawyers to hash that out, but I just wish more parents would step away from the flash cards and relax about giving their kids some kind of leg up on the poor slobs who wasted their preschool years on the monkey bars and eating paste.

The advocacy group complains that the $200 Your Baby Can Read series are marketed to mislead parents into thinking that reading in infancy will give their children a head start. Researchers have long cautioned about this kind of early reading push. Language development must come first and for that, babies need adults to, you know, TALK to them, point out fun and interesting things in the back yard and respond and react to what they say.

What they find is that children will have a much easier time decoding (that's a scientist word for reading) as well as understanding and comprehending their books when they are taught to read later, such as in kindergarten and first grade. Some educators even say you can put it off until age 8 or 9 and see no difference when the kids are older.

Memorizing flashcards can certainly be done by babies, but it's not as richly stimulating as a back-and-forth conversations with Mom about the world around them. As we have learned from baby sign language (an activity I actually like for pre-verbal kids) babies are already learning a lot about language even while they are still in the babbling stage.

It just seems to make sense that the simple power of conversation is a lot more fun and loving way for young children to begin reading instead of drilling them on vocabulary words.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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Posted by Sharon Wynne at 7:00:00 am on May 17, 2011