Parents Who Teach Their Babies to Read Are Pressuring Them to Grow Up

Rant 24

baby with bookEvery parent wants their child to have the best possible start in life and encourage them to learn, but it seems like these days, some moms and dads are getting a little bit carried away with rushing their kids into growing up.

More and more parents are attempting to teach their babies to read from a very early age, because they believe they'll give them a big leg up on learning by introducing reading skills before their little ones even know how to talk.

Get this one: a mom named Dana Wilkey went one step further -- she started teaching her son to read when he was only 4 days old. (Four days old!)

She would show him 10 flashcards twice a day and says, "I would show John words like 'milk,' give him my breast, and then show him the baby sign language for milk. I did it morning and evening."

Good grief!! When my son was 4 days old, I could barely manage to stay awake let alone bust out a set of flashcards!

By the age of 9 months, Dana reports that her son knew baby sign language for 20 words, and says she "knew he could read" at that point because he would sign words back to her after viewing the flashcards.

Impressive? Yes. Necessary? No freakin' way. Our kids grow up too fast as it is, so I just don't understand why any parent would want to force them to learn skills like reading when they should be enjoying playtime and bonding with their moms and dads instead.

Babies are just babies, for crying out loud, so what's the point of trying to teach them to do things 5-year-olds are supposed to do? I mean, there are plenty of ways to expose them to language without literally using flashcards -- like reading to them instead of trying to teach them how, for example. (There's an idea.)

I will always treasure the times I spent while my son was a baby with him cuddled up in my lap while I read books to him. And I'm just so glad I let him be a baby instead of getting all caught up in trying to speed his development along.

The precious time we have with our kids while they're infants needs to be savored, because it's a period in our lives we'll never get back. And if you try to make it progress too fast, you'll run the risk of missing out on the little moments that make it so special.

Would you try and teach your baby to read?


Image via quinn.anya/Flickr

baby development


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Jessy Roos

I have to point out that most scientists and pediatricians agree that what Wilkey is describing is not in fact an ability to read, and that generally, kids aren't capable of the complex functions required for reading until after two, usually between ages three and four. What Wilkey is describing as reading is more likely her sons ability to associate the shapes on the page with the sounds and motions he's been taught by rote. 

What Wilkey did do was give her child the ability to communicate needs before he was verbal. My mother works with various preschools and daycares in an effort to help them raise the quality of their programs and she has described the calm and happiness that occurs when a baby room (under two years) at a daycare centre uses baby sign language. The children are able to express themselves in concrete ways and it leads to lower levels of distress for them.

I'm not saying that everyone should teach their children to sign, but why would we fault those who do if it leads to such positive things?

Histo... HistoryMamaX3

It's funny... mostly because research continues to show, time and time again, that around third grade- teachers are no longer able to tell which children were reading before Kindergarten and who were not.

Don't lose such precious years forcing them to be big kids... they are only so little for such a tiny period of time.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

It's not impressive at all. Any nine month old baby can associate symbols like flash cards with an action. Doing the sign when they see a flash card really isn't different from them picking up their spoon when they see food coming. Twenty signs at nine months isn't impressive either, loads of babies can say that many words and more by then. They'll pick then up just by talking to them, exposing your child to normal language is a far more effective way to teach them to communicate than by using flash cards.

amazz... amazzonia

As my doctor told me, you can spend all your money in private schools, early learning centers, educational toys but when they will get in to first grade, they are all going to read, write and count the same way, there is just no point into pressuring kids to do things first, is just for the mother's ego so she can brag about her kid with other moms, and that is not a good reason to stress a baby. 

xanth... xanthian41691

My MIL bought my daughter the Your Baby Can Read program. She's 12 months and we just started her on it yesterday, and she LOVED it! We're not pressuring her to grow up, the program itself says it takes time for them to recognize things. But we know she's smart, we know she picks up things quickly, and we want to give her the best possible start to her education that we can. 

Reepi... Reepicheep.CSL

You are seriously judging a mother for teaching and spending time with her child?

You are what is wrong with this society. You condemn people when they do positive things for their children and you say ' don't judge' when someone does something stupid in life because ' we haven't walked in their shoes'.

So sick and tired of it.

nonmember avatar Dana

Ditto to the commenter above!! I've been visiting this site for a few months now and am CONSTANTLY annoyed by the writers "better than thou" attitude. This is her first child and yet she knows what should and should not be done. It's incrediably annoying. Stop throwing your opinion in every article you write PLEASE!

What is wrong with teaching your children to read early?? It's much better than putting them in front of the telly which i bet YOU DO!

Americans are too lazy when it comes to raising children. Prepare them for the real world by not always treating them like they are incapable of learning something until a certain age!


Jespren Jespren

Reading isn't 'work' or forcing one to grow up, it's fun, play, entertainment, and a rewarding, awesome, wonderful achievement. You don't teach early reading (solely) because you want Jonny to get a leg up in the world, you do it because kids who learn to read young LOVE TO READ. I was a spontaneous reader at age 4, while my parents reading to me certainly helped even they'll tell you I just started reading. Reading is awesome, it's play and fun and kids love it. My 4 yr old doesn't read, but I hope he will by 5, as I know it will unlock worlds to him.

power... powertothekids

i learned to learn early and ever since i LOVE books its not a big deal

Heidi Cardenas Weaver

Some moms need to 'be doing something'.  Some moms are more comfortable simply snuggling.  Babies need warmth and confidence that they're loved and cared for outside of performance.  As long as moms communicate that, it shouldn't matter the format.  An "intense" mom of an infant will hopefully learn to just "be" - and chances are the "do less" moms (like me) wind up learning something about self-discipline and routine for the kids.  In all things: balance and love.

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