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?

baby development, baby first year


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angev... angevil53

i knew it was a scam as soon as i saw it. and they even explain on the commercials how it works, which isn't reading, it's memorizing and can hinder learning later when children have to learn about the relationship between consonants and vowels.

nonmember avatar Adam

I felt confident it was a scam as well, but my sister, a long time elementary school teacher tells me that memorization is really a core aspect of learning how to read. I had asked her because my 5yr old seemed to not be actually 'reading' books but simply memorizing them and the patterns inside them. I was told this is completely normal and expected as its a step in the learning process.

ba13y... ba13ygrl1987

I agree it's a scam, and I've said that to anyone who would listen since I saw the program for the first time. Many children with a passion to read learn to do so at a young age, just like children with a passion for music learn to play young, and children with a passion for art learn to paint and draw actual figures young. Everyone has their talent, and the children who are reading young? That's their talent. And that's great for that child, but it's not for everyone. Most children will learn to read between the ages of 4-6, and that's when it's recommended because that's when the brain is mature enough to start figuring out phonetic patterns, how to sound out words, and what each individual letters sounds like. Before this age, in most children, it's rote memorization, which does nothing for actual reading comprehension later in life. It's wonderful that your 12 month old can spout off big long words, but can they tell you what they just read? Probably not. And therefore these children don't develop  a love of reading, it's just another task mom or dad want them to do, instead of playing. By all means facilitate activities your children show an interest in, including reading at a young age if that's the case. But don't forget to let kids be kids. So much more can be learned by letting them dig in the dirt, then forcing them to sit in front of a tv and memorize flashcards. 

tyrel... tyrelsmom

It didn't take a genius to figure that out. Seriously.

Histo... HistoryMamaX3

It doesn't matter in the long run whether or not your child can read before they enter kindergarten. Research has shown time and time again that by the third grade, kids even out and you can no longer tell who learned to read early or later. Sadly, it can have a negative impact on students who are over-pressured by their parents. They are used to excelling and doing well, but when they make the learning transition in third and fourth grades- they find themselves struggling... parents and child do not know how to deal with this and it can be a blow to the self-esteem.

MrsGusty MrsGusty

Why put that kind of pressure on a baby anyway?  Seriously, just let the kid be a kid.  Babies should be playing, that's how they learn.

Memph... MemphisSuzi

I had a friend who swore by it and really just could not be convinced that memorizing was differant than reading.  Phonics, people, Phonics!  :)

butte... butterflyfreak

I'm with MrsGusty, why do parents think it's a good idea to put that kind of pressure on a baby? My daughter is 3.5 and loves books and I'm hoping that love affair continues after she learns to read. And it's not because of some stupid program. It's because I take the time to read to her every day. That is the best way to teach your child to love books, by example. My husband and I both love to read and she often sees us reading our own books. 

Hilary MacNeal

A child should learn to read by example - we read to them, give them books to flip through and explore, teach them a love of reading in general, and let them see us reading.  They`ll learn to read in their own time.  I love reading, and read well ahead of my grade level in elementary school.  I taught myself because I loved reading books with my parents, not because they started me on a bogus reading program as an infant. 

butte... butterflymkm

My MIL bought this for our DD and we let her watchthe DVDs from time to time but we aren't militant about it. She enjoys watching them so I don't see any harm in it. But they are somewhat simple they are really just power point presentations that any parent with a computer could make and save $100.

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