Is 'Your Baby Can Read' a Scam?

Most parents would do anything to give their child a leg up in the academic world, right? So, it's no wonder that parents have been shelling out hundreds of dollars for the Your Baby Can Read program on DVD, replete with flashcards and other systems allegedly created to help even babies as young as 3 months learn to read.

But are these babies really reading? Child development experts from Harvard, Tufts, NYU, and more say no. These babies are just memorizing and the parents who buy into it are being duped.

I am with them. This is a lot like the Baby Einstein hype of a few years ago. Parents will do anything to keep their kids competitive, but in many cases, they may be hurting them.


Susan Linn is the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a group which has filed an FTC complaint that Your Baby Can Read is misleading propaganda and also “poses significant health and safety risks to infants” who sit in front of TVs and computer monitors. Linn told MSNBC:

If parents follow the Your Baby Can Read instructions, after 9 months, babies would have spent over a full week of 24-hour days in front of a screen. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2. So does the White House task force on childhood obesity.

Raise your hand if you think putting a baby in front of a TV is helpful? I'm guessing most moms are still sitting with their arms by their side. We all know it isn't and we all know we shouldn't do it. So why would we do it just to teach our kids to read?

As the parent of a precocious reader who became interested in letters as a baby and taught herself to actually read at 2, I know it's tempting to push kids further and further, but the fact is children gravitate toward what they love. My daughter is 4 and knows how to read, but has no interest in numbers. My son has no interest in letters or colors, but is fascinated by numbers and what they do. I don't push either of them. Learning should be fun and it should be independent.

Memorizing is a great party trick, but it isn't actually reading. It isn't sounding out the words and learning (and loving) the letters. That takes passion and desire and you don't get those things by forcing a 3-month-old into a chair in front of the television.

We want our kids to love to learn and to seek it out themselves. We can present opportunities and let them gravitate toward them. There is no need to push a motivated child. They will seek what they're interested in and that is the way to build a lifelong love of reading and learning in general.

Do you use tricks to teach your child to read?

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