Your baby can read! . . . Uh, no, he can’t

Your baby can memorize.

I’ve seen this commercial a few times and it irks me just a little bit more each time. I’m sorry to break it to parents, but this does not teach your child to read. Memorizing that a bunch of squiggly lines means a dog is not reading. Knowing letter sounds and digraphs and diphthongs is reading. In short, phonics is reading!

I do not discount the importance of learning sight words. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with teaching your baby sight words, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that that’s reading. As soon as your child has an unfamiliar word in front of him, he’s going to be lost. My daughter knew that a stop sign read “stop” and she knew that c-a-t spelled “cat” when she was 3 years old. But if I showed her the word “cop”, a different word using letter sounds in words she already knew, she had no idea what it was. Now at 6, she can look at a completely unfamiliar word and sound it out. In fact, the other day she read “etoufee” from a menu at the Reading Terminal Market! Now, she is reading.

There is no need to spend a fortune on a baby reading program. Read Dr. Seuss to your child over and over again and you’ll get the same result. My daughter could “read” Green Eggs and Ham from start to finish 3 years ago. She could even point to which word was box and which word was fox. It’s nothing spectacular. Babies and young children are very good at memorizing. They need to be. A person learns more information in the first 5 years than any other time in his life. I used to teach pre-school. There was a little girl, 1 ½ years old. You could ask her, “Who’s the president of the United States?” and she would say, “Bush”. You could ask her, “Where does he live?” and she would say, “White House”. She had no concept of what any of that meant, but it was a fun trick for her parents to show off.

I switched schools a lot when I was a kid. The biggest transition for me was in the middle of 1st grade. The school I attended throughout Kindergarten and the first half of 1st grade taught me to read by memorization. I was one of the top readers in my class. I transferred to a school that focused on phonics and all of a sudden I was lost. The books were different, so I couldn’t read them. I ended up in the lowest reading group in my class. Remaining in a similar school system, by 5th grade I was one of the few kids selected to help teach the struggling 2nd graders how to read.

It is natural for parents to want to do what is best for their kids. We see all these gimmicks about the next best thing and of course we want to pick up the phone. It’s not that any of these things are bad for our kids, they’re just not necessary. Read to your kids, read in front of your kids, teach your kids to love books and they will become strong readers. Save your money for college!

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One response to this post.

  1. […] back I posted a blog called, “Your Baby Can Read! Uh, No, He Can’t . . . “ In the post I explained that all this product did was to teach your baby to memorize. Well, now […]

    Reply

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