Friday, July 18, 2008

Your Baby Can Read

As a parent it is always difficult to know just how to support your children as they develop physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. One of the readers of this blog (Louisa) has asked about the program “Your Baby Can Read!”. Is it a good idea? So I decided to review it for readers of this blog.

Above: Elsie reading "My Mum" with her Nanna Carmen


The program was developed by Dr Robert Titzer. His website suggests that he is a “recognized expert, infant researcher…professor and teacher…(who has) extensively researched infant learning and development….(with) a Ph.D. in Human Performance at Indiana University, where he developed this revolutionary early learning approach with his own infant children. His research on reading during infant and toddler years captured the interest of educators, researchers, parents, government agencies, and the media worldwide. Dr. Titzer’s research has been published in scientific journals, including the prestigious Psychological Review.” Most people would probably have become aware of this program through TV current affairs programs.

The “Your Baby Can Read!” program includes 5 DVDs, 5 word and picture cards, and 1 wipe-clean word card and pen. The Starter DVD introduces your child to 22 words. You play the DVD twice a day (which takes about an hour in total) for a month and then use Volume 1 for two months. Volume 1 reviews the starter video and introduces 30 new words. After that, parents are encouraged to move on to Volume 2 that introduces 50 new words for two months. Revision of the Starter and Volume 1 DVDs is encouraged. Volume 3 follows and introduces 50 new words and more songs and poems. You are advised to use this almost exclusively for another month and then switch to Volume 4, which reviews the other DVDs. You then alternate this video with the other videos.

The basic approach is straightforward, it is primarily a program that teaches children to recognise words by ‘sight’. This means that the child uses visual clues such as the shape of the word, and some aspects of letter configuration (e.g. an initial letter, an unusual ending) to identify the word instantly.This is a program that trains children to recognise words instantly.

There is no doubt that some very young children can be taught basic sight words at a very young age. And, the many videos that you’ll find on YouTube of little kids ‘barking at print’ are cute and even a little compelling. However, there are three concerns that I would point out to any parent considering its use:
  • The program does not teach children to ‘read’ in the fullest sense of the word, rather it teaches them to recognise instantly a number of words. This approach (which does have its place in beginning reading education) stresses that the mind prefers holistic approaches (this has been contested of course by many researchers). It utilises the brain’s capacity for the Gestalt effect - the ability to retain an holistic image of a figure, a word, an object, a number etc, rather than just a collection of lines, elements or separate objects. As I outline on my website, (here) to be an effective reader any child ultimately needs to: learn the sounds of language and their correspondence with print; understand the structure of language and how it works; learn how to use language appropriately for specific purposes; and learn ultimately how to critique written text. While the program claims to teach children incidentally about sound-symbol relationships there is little evidence to support this.
  • If you introduce this program at ages as young as 12 months (as suggested) you are essentially introducing your child to formal instruction 3-4 years before this has traditionally been done. While Dr Titzer suggests that an early introduction to written language in the form of his program will accelerate learning, I would contest this as unproven. I was unable to find any evidence that he has presented to verify that this is the case. Furthermore, research on the benefits of acceleration suggests mixed outcomes. We now that some children can be badly affected by too early an introduction to formal learning. But studies are conflicting in relation to any positive benefits of acceleration. Overall, children with normal ability (i.e. without any specific learning disabilities), who start later, generally catch children who do make an early start. Dr Titzer suggests on his website that the best readers in the world are from Russia where children start school early. This does not match the most significant international study ever conducted (PISA) that has assessed the reading achievements of 15 year-old children in over 58 countries. The country that has done best (virtually since assessments began) is Finland, a country where just 9 years of school education is compulsory and where it doesn’t start till age 7! They also have non-compulsory preparatory school for most 6 year-olds that is similar to our preschools. Australia has consistently performed in the top 6 nations (as high as 3rd)
  • In introducing a program like “Your baby can read!” you are essentially devoting time to structured repetitive learning of a limited type that would probably replace other forms of learning. I'd encourage any parent who is considering using this program to ask themselves two simple questions: What other things would I stop doing while I use this program? What would be the impact of the loss of this other activity?
Would I introduce my children to this program? No. This program does not teach children to ‘read’. Neither is it clear what its benefits are, nor if in fact it could have a negative effect on your child and impede their long-term learning. While the program’s creator claims research expertise in early literacy, I was unable to find much evidence to support this claim, and virtually no citations of his limited publications by other researchers. Instead of using this program I would encourage my children from birth by stimulating their language (singing to them, reading with them, asking questions etc) and learning (exploration, invention, creative play etc). In short, I would be constantly engaging with my child in varied ways. See related previous posts on “Teaching moments in everyday life” (here), “Play” (here) and “Basic literacy support: Reading with your children” (here). I also provide an outline of an integrated approach to early literacy on my website that might be of some use.

UPDATE TO THIS POST: Please note that I have done a second post on 'Your Baby Can Read' which can be found by clicking here
 
Related links

Readers of this post might also find the following posts of interest:

When do children start writing? (click here)
Basic literacy support: Reading with children (click here)
The importance of play - Part 1 (click here)
Basic literacy support 3: Is phonics all we need? (click here)
The language experience approach (LEA) (click here)
Brain development and the first weeks of life (click here)
You can also view a demonstration of Your Baby Can Read (click here)

96 comments:

Jason Goroncy said...

Trevor. Thanks for this helpful (and encouraging) review of the 'Your Baby Can Read!' program. While I was aware of Titzer's (money-spinning) thesis, the concerns you outline make real sense to me. I spend all day with a 2-year-old. We cook, play, dance, listen to music, read, count the dongs on the grandfather clock, sort through food, and eat leaves in the garden, among other things. It's learning all the way, and the resultant growth in her is obvious.

Jason Goroncy said...

Oops ... a typo. Clearly I can't read. The mistaken sentence was meant to say 'I was unaware of Titzer's ...'.

Back to school. :-)

Trevor Cairney said...

Good for you Jason, a perfect recipe for stimulating your child intellectually and a great platform to build a wonderful relationship with her. I find grass goes down easier with a dash of sand, and some leaves to give more variety to the salad. Thanks for your comment.

Erin said...

Thankyou for this. As an Early Childhood teacher-in-training I never liked the look of the program (though all I know is from what was on Today Tonight etc) - but my main concern (which you mentioned) was the amount of time that parents had to spend in structured teaching time; I'm guessing that it cuts into the time for play, exploring, relationship growing and everything eles that is wonderful about this age group.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Erin, thanks for your comment - I think the loss of time is a critical issue. Thanks also for coming to the Faithful Writer conference. Sorry my session was a bit rushed but I'm happy to correspond about stuff so don't be frightened to email me or ask questions on this blog.

Louisa said...

Hi Trevor, thanks for this review and sorry for only getting here now to read it! I was without internet for a couple of weeks and slowly catching up on all my blog reading. Very helpful review. I appreciated your comments and your hesistations about the program make a lot of sense to me!

brian said...

So, the only concrete criticism I'm reading is that if you spend an hour a day on this program, you might be missing out on time spent with other activities. As a parent of a child spending virtually 24-7 time with at least one parent in a "traditional" development environment, what would we have to lose in a trial integration of this program? Thanks, for your response.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Brian, only you can make the judgement as to whether this might be a good thing for your child. My review is pretty clear, I'm not too excited about this approach, and as I said in the review, it isn't clear what its benefits are "nor if in fact it could have a negative effect on your child and impede their long-term learning". I'm a researcher so I try not to make claims without evidence. It might not harm your child as a learner and language user, but it isn't just about lost time, it's about what this program will teach your child about literacy and its purposes over the long term and whether your child will be someone at age 6 who loves language and is excited about using it for his/her purposes. As I've said, I wouldn't use it, nor would I recommend it to my daughters to use with my grandchildren. My eldest grandson is an interesting case in point. He turned 6 yesterday. He couldn't read one word at age 5 when he entered school, and not much more than 10 9 months ago. But he already had a rich spoken vocabulary and loved books because of the way they had been shared with him. Today he is reading novels and factual books written for 8-12 year olds and can read virtually any word he is confronted by. He's working his way through the whole Chronicles of Narnia and has comprehension that staggers me. Not all children are like him and need more structured approaches to help them as readers. But not at 18 months, at age 5-6 when they enter school. All the best, and thanks for your comment. I'm glad to hear that you are such involved parents. Trevor

Amber said...

I've also read recently that Finland has the best scores on standardized tests, that's because they invest heavily into the education system and they have highly trained teachers that teach to each individual child. They don't have things set up the way we do, in that they are NOT required to teach the class as a whole. They spend extra time with students who need it and the more advanced students tend to do a lot of self-learning.
BTW- this happens to be the way most homeschooling situations work out - which is why in the US Homeschool children tend to do better on standardized tests and on the SATs - because those that need extra help can get it. It becomes an individualized program rather than babysitting.
As far as this program is concerned. I applaud it's use as part of a larger program that includes phonetic learning -which also requires memorization people- you have to memorize what each letter's sound is and what each blended sound is.
Memorization is key for my Autistic son. This could very possibly make a huge difference for him in the way of communication. He has been doing other video programs like the "Baby Bumblebee" series and it has made a huge difference in his language comprehension skills. He uses the words appropriately. When he watches other programs, like Dora. He memorizes phrases; "We did it" "sube" etc. And he uses them in the proper context, but he doesn't show that he knows what the words mean individually. He doesn't understand what the pronoun "we" means or that "it" has a meaning as well.
So I'm more than willing to give this program a try with the phonetic flash cards I have as well.

A. said...

Trevor--where to begin? We used this video and various other methods, and our 2 1/2 year old is reading well over 1,000 words rather well. He spends the vast bulk of his playing, and most of his "learning" time is spent reading together and doing puzzles and things like that. But we also do flashcards and are proud of his progress.

Now to some responses. You're probably right that on the first viewings of "Your Baby Can Read," a baby merely learns the shape of words. This, however, proves nothing. Repeated viewings, as Titzer recommends, builds an understanding of words and phonetic rules, and going on (as Titzer says is necessary) to read many many books, and some other activities, can solidify the gains.

If you believe that none of the two-year-olds on YouTube are able to understand what they read, if you think they are all just "barking at print," then you clearly have not had any first-hand experience with such children. I have to say that while I respect your expertise, I think you have done your field and your readers a disservice by pretending to rest on your expertise in this case: your expertise hasn't given you the experience needed to evaluate the phenomenon you're opining about. There are literally thousands of examples of very early readers who followed the Doman program, long before Titzer. Many of them are brilliant adults now. Why not actually study them?

The whole business of whether educational systems in different countries support or undermine early education is a blind alley. Why not just do some controlled longitudinal studies?

I leave you with this. Suppose (just humor me for a moment) that you were to show these videos to a 2 year old, half hour per program, five days a week, over a period of let's say four months. (This isn't what Titzer recommends, but it should be enough.) Yes, that ends up being a fair bit of time--a total of 40 hours. But suppose further that Titzer turns out to be right, and that after that, when you sit down and read a lot with your child, he increasingly picks up more more words, so that he himself is reading by age 3 or 4--a couple years before he would learn to read otherwise. (This is what happened with our child. He sounds out unfamiliar words; he's 2.5 years old. He's a bright, happy, friendly child.)

Would it be worth it? You say "no," because there is no evidence that it would accelerate learning long-term. I agree that there are no good studies that establish this, but there are a few positive indicators, and no studies that I'm aware of that definitively undermine the claim either. What there is is plenty of anecdotal evidence of people who began teaching their children systematically at a young age, and their gains are not only retained, the students go on to far outstrip their peers.

Anyway, if you really care about this topic, why not actually do the badly needed studies, already? You're a scientist, right? If the study showed you to be wrong--that it's possible for tiny tots to learn to read with comprehension, and that on average their gains are retained--then would you change your mind? Or are you just philosophically opposed to the whole idea of early childhood education?

A. said...

I should add that we also have done a lot of phonics flash cards as well--something our son likes quite a bit. If he didn't, we wouldn't be doing them. Going through these cards that teach phonics rules is why he's able to sound out words and read many more words than he has been explicitly taught.

One other thing. You know all those hundreds of words that he can more or less understand when he speaks them himself? You know the books that presumably he understands as well as any child who can't read? When he reads those words himself, he understands them as well as if we had read them to him. (Why wouldn't he?)

Nebi said...

I agree with Brian, and I am an elementary school teacher. My 15 month old has multiple experiences with music, dance, art, reading, fine and gross motor skill development, dramatic play and more on a daily basis. It wouldn't take time away from anything important, if she watched a DVD for 30 minutes while I got ready in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening while I got dinner ready. She and I usually cuddle when I watch T.V. in the evening. I would much rather watch the DVD with her than a random T.V. show. I wouldn't force her to sit down and watch it, if she didn't want to, but I don't think that will be a problem. When she and I watched the demo DVD, she laughed, participated and enjoyed it very much. I look forward to trying out this product.

Barbara said...

Thanks you for your comments about this program. I would, as you, like to see results later in school. I read one comment earlier today about a school that started out with the word memorization type program , and now has gone back to the phonics type reading program. Still needs some more researching for me. Do the children continue to progress ahead of other children or does other children that learn to read later catch up with them. ???? Need results!!!

Grandma 20 said...

Hi I watched the tv ad for your baby can read and I read all the blogs I can find on this program. Here is my question as I don't think that my 1 year old twins would sit long evough to watch these videos I have a 3 and 4 year old grandaughters that spend a lot of time with a baby sitter who makes them sit and watch tv while she plays on the computor or watches soaps. Do you think this program might help them get a little help before they start school over the next 2 years

Trevor Cairney said...

Thank you to all who have commented recently. I've enjoyed reading your comments. My reservations about this program remain. As I've said:

* there is no evidence to suggest that this program will have long term benefits for your child's reading and learning;
* there is insufficient research to discount the possibility of potential harm from programs of this type at such an early age;
* I stand by my comment that every hour spent using this program is an hour not spent in other arguably more beneficial age appropriate activities such as play, reading to and with them, creative activities, discovery learning, music, art, physical activities etc;
* there is mixed evidence about the potential benefits of accelerated learning at any age; that is, there isn't much evidence to suggest that early acceleration has long term benefits.

Grandma 20's question is a good one. It makes more sense to do use the types of strategies used in a program like Your Baby Can Read at the asge of 4, but I'd still prefer to see Grandma's doing other things rather than flash card drills. Certainly, I wouldn't encourage the grandma of my 5 grandchildren to use it (nor would she anyway). Thanks everyone for the feedback.

Steve Rose said...

It is amusing to me to watch the philosophical (religious?) argument happening here and other YBCR review sites. We still know so little about how the brain works. For example, it seems that an infant's brain is not only forming or reinforcing synapses based on its environmental input, it is also pruning connections that have not been exercised, making it difficult to later learn skills such as other languages.

The brain uses an amazing amount of redundancy. For example, when you can remember someone's name, the clue may be because of their appearance, the sound of their voice, their perfume, their clothing, a mannerism, or a hundred other things. Aldzheimer's becomes apparent only when the last clue disappears. Our ability to read is the same -- it doesn't matter how we recognize words or phrases, and their associated meaning -- the more clues the better.

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Your Baby Can Read semes to wrok on a wlhoe word reiandg scmhee, jsut as eixeprneced rreades do with fmaiilar text. Olny wehn a wrod is umifnlaair do we fall back to photinec klodwnege, or wehn we need to look up an uafnimlair word that we have hraed, in the diitconary. Celalry, sinpellg is bsaed on yet anteohr slikl, wichh coeminbs the suodns from pehocnits wtih the whloe word kowneldge of the crorect lteters, and adds the aiibtly to rmemeebr the crorcet oerdr!

To produce your own "jumbles":
http://www.jeorgethedodo.com/huh_jumble.asp

Your Baby Can Read seems to work on a whole word reading scheme, just as experienced readers do with familiar text. Only when a word is unfamiliar do we fall back to phonetic knowledge, or when we need to look up an unfamiliar word that we have heard, in the dictionary. Clearly, spelling is based on yet another skill, which combines the sounds from phonetics with the whole word knowledge of the correct letters, and adds the ability to remember the correct order!

When I saw the YBCR infomercial, the Cambridge paragraph immediately came to mind and I ordered. It is great fun to sit with my grandson and do the interactive exercises and songs. Even if there is no long term benefit, it's a great way to spend time together now.

Aloha,
Steve

Trevor Cairney said...

I can feel a follow up post coming on. Thanks for your comment Steve. Your comment about early brain elasticity is true (see my recent post on Early Brain Development click here). And for my part, I'm a strong supporter of the early and ongoing stimulation of children's learning (read the rest of my blog). But your characterisation of how we read is not quite as simple as you suggest (see some of my other posts on things like phonics). But I digress, my points about YBCR are unchanged by your claim that reading is mainly about whole word recognition (which it isn't). I will post again on YBCR and pick up on some of the comments in the next couple of weeks. Trevor

Jasonk said...

Trevor, you mention that reading is not about whole word recognition. I have recently married into a Chinese family. As you know, the Chinese language IS (or at least it seems to me) to be entirely about whole word recognition, as there is no relationship between the character and how it is pronounced. I have watched with interest my nieces and nephews learn to read Chinese. Could it be that our understanding of what reading is simply reflects our language specific bias?

Is there a difference between reading the word "rice" for example and recognizing the Chinese character for "rice"(米)?

Are readers of Chinese merely ‘barking at print’?

Lastly, it seems to me that the skills that you outline as being necessary to be an effective reader seem to have more to do with understanding the language rather than specifically reading of the language.

Just some thoughts...

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Jason, six quick responses:

1. First, I did Not say that reading “is not about whole word recognition”. In responding to Steve Rose, who had said that “that reading is mainly about whole word recognition”, I said it isn’t – and it’s not. Please read my previous post on basic literacy support (click here) in which I make it clear that reading requires readers to use knowledge of semantics (meaning), grammar (syntax) and grapho-phonics (sounds and things like word shape). Your ‘nonsense’ text reinforces the point; readers who can draw on syntax and semantics can make good predictions about individual words while reading them in context.


2. Second, my original post was NOT about how children read (I’ve written over 200 scholarly papers on this and 7 books), it was suggesting that there were some reasons for parents to think twice about introducing their children to whole word recognition at age 18 months on. I stand by these and will elaborate in a second post soon.

3. Third, just because someone can do something, doesn’t mean that it is beneficial in the short or long term.

4. Fourth, you show why a little bit of knowledge about anything can be dangerous. You commented, “The Chinese language IS (or at least it seems to me) to be entirely about whole word recognition, as there is no relationship between the character and how it is pronounced”. There is partial truth in this but Chinese characters are not like our words. While our symbols are actually grapho-phonemic symbols, Chinese characters correspond to single spoken syllable that have (usually) a meaning. There are over 47,000 of them but only about 2-3 thousand are necessary to be literate. While single characters with simple meanings can form Chinese words, most words in all varieties of Chinese need two or more characters to write them (i.e. they are poly-syllabic). When they are combined they have meanings that are distinct from the characters from which they were made. So your Chinese cousins and nephews if taught Chinese characters on flash cards would (like children learning this way in English) very soon end up needing much more sophisticated other forms of knowledge to end up as proficient readers.

5. Fifth, you can choose to do what you want with your child I’ve simply suggested that based on my 30+ experience teaching, doing research and writing about literacy that there are some significant risks involved in using YBCR techniques from age 18 months. With your own knowledge and experience you can choose to ignore my advice. I have no ideological battle to fight. Of course, children who read whole words can do so with understanding of the meaning, and can indirectly learn other things about language, but for many 18-month-old children they will indeed be “barking at print”.

6. Sixth, of course many of my posts dealing with pre-schoolers are dealing with language, that’s what children are still largely doing from age 0-5 years, literacy is simply part of this. None of the high level skills that you hope your child can add to their whole world knowledge eventually will be acquired without rich stimulation of language in the pre-school years. That’s been one of my key points. In a time poor world be careful how you use the precious time that you have with your kids.

But thanks for your comment - excellent stuff! Trevor

Doug M said...

Thank you Trevor. This review was extremely helpful and very explanatory.

I think I'll use another approach to teach my 2 year old (who is also named Trevor). :)

Thanks again and Happy Holidays.

Mary Beth Moss said...

Trevor, I have to say that I am greatly relieved to read your critique of this program. I first saw the infomercial about the program last night. My initial gut reaction was revulsion (I like your characterization, "barking at words") quickly followed by what is likely the typical parental reaction, "But if its true, I SHOULD be doing this for my child." I immediately searched this morning for more info and found this blog.

I understand and appreciate your concerns. I would add another to the list - that of children placed in front of a TV for whatever reason. I admittedly allow my 2-year-old daughter to watch Sesame Street and Baby Einstein videos but I don't kid myself that this is for her benefit. I am actually concerned that my child NOT begin associating TV as educational. I have heard quite a bit about the effects of TV on infants (pre-2) but am curious about your take on any TV viewing (educational or otherwise) for toddlers...

Larry said...

This whole discussion is interesting, but I would like to defend what seems to be an unpopular perspective here.

Suffice it to say that our family has had excellent results with "Your Baby Can Read," and after having done a bit of reading on the subject, I'd like to try to debunk some myths here.

First, the whole language/phonics dispute is largely irrelevant, to my mind, because it is possible to teach small children to apply phonetic rules. It's true...I've seen it. Even if Titzer's program didn't work (but I think it does), you'd still be able to teach toddlers to sound out words phonetically. Besides, Titzer claims that kids who go through his program do figure out the phonetic rules by age 2 or whatever. Personally, I think the issue is irrelevant. The merits of the program don't rest on the outcome of the phonics/whole language debate.

Second, the idea that small children are merely "barking at print" is also a canard, and this is (if you'll forgive me) embarrassingly easy to establish, and with almost no experimentation. How? Well, these children are reading aloud words that they evidently know the meanings of. For example, if a child reads, "The ball is blue," and you see everyday evidence of the child knowing what "ball" and "blue" mean, that pretty much proves that they know the meaning of the text they happen to be reading out loud, doesn't it? Of course, it is possible for kids to learn to read many words they don't understand (come to think of it, that's true of adults, too), but that isn't really what these programs are for, is it? They are intended to teach kids how to read words that they can understand. In case I still haven't made myself clear, think of it like this. Pick any sentence that you believe some 18-month-old can understand. Now ask yourself: if the 18-month-old were to read that sentence out loud himself, instead of hearing it coming from an adult's mouth, why would you say that the child is merely "barking at print"? There's one legitimate point being made here, and that is that the ability to read can't outstrip the ability to grasp spoken language. Agreed. But so what?

Third, Dr. Cairney is certainly right to be skeptical of the long-term benefits of learning to read early. On the other hand, I don't see why we should not be equally skeptical of unproven claims that it somehow stunts the growth of children. Wouldn't the most reasonable pre-empirical testing stance be that it very probably wouldn't hurt, and might do considerable good? Call me crazy, but that sounds right to me. And there are plenty of individual cases of children who started with Titzer's program, or Doman's, who are now virtual prodigies. Their parents report that they love reading and learning generally, which is what I would expect a priori. If they regress later on, I would guess it is because they aren't supported properly in their more advanced work by their schools once they hit the ages 5-6. Schooling is a great leveller, by design. But again, I agree that this is mostly speculation and individual cases, which proves little. If Dr. Cairney knows of a well-conducted study that sheds light on these matters, I would certainly be very interested. I'm afraid that I know enough about the ideological divisions in educational theory--your denials in your own case notwithstanding--to know that vague references to 30+ years of experience are, while deserving of great respect, still not entirely persuasive to a person who isn't already persuaded. There are, after all, some people on the other side, with equally extensive, lengthy experience teaching little kids to read, who no doubt would say that the results have been uniformly beneficial to the children they've observed. As to your own experience, I should think this is a point where you'd want to go into in great detail. In what specific ways are children later shown to have actually been harmed by having learned to read at age 2, for example? Shouldn't that be your main point? First, do no harm; so, what's the harm?

Fourth, again, the whole idea of "lost time" is a canard. When my boy used the program, he saw it for 20 minutes once a day at first, and less often after that, for a couple of months. And let's just say it worked as advertised, and leave it at that, shall we? The reason it can work with so little screen time is that the main way little kids learn to read is, after all, by being read to a huge amount. That's true of my little boy, we have hundreds of books we have read multiple times with him, and we read to him all the time. It's apparently the experience of many parents that a little bit of these programs can go a long way.

What I find very, very puzzling--maybe you can explain this to me, Dr. Cairney--is why early learning researchers aren't more interested in investigating the phenomena here more carefully. There haven't been any good longitudinal studies of the Titzer or Doman programs that I've ever been able to find, that either supported or debunked their claims. I've seen references to a few, but they appear to be pretty lame. If this were mere flim-flammery, easily exposed, that would be one thing. But there are many credible stories online of children reading and apparently understanding things like Harry Potter at age 5. (Whether they *should* read Harry Potter at that age is another issue, but I hope you get my point.) And the YouTube videos of those "amazing" 3-year-old readers are pretty impressive, because, again, they often are shown reading books that we'd say they understand if the same books were read to them. The phenomena here are not made up; they are real.

I think the resistance to taking up the issues in serious research might be ideological. I gather that educationists are to a great extent romantics after the general mold of Rousseau, and they are certainly deeply committed egalitarians, like almost all academics. Probably any program that would so clearly set some children apart from others (who don't use it), and which uses an apparently "unnatural" method (as if watching simple videos sitting side-by-side were much less natural than reading a colorful book out loud to a passive kid in your lap), is inevitably going to make most educationists gag, ideologically speaking. But I don't know. If it's not ideological, I'd sure like to know what the resistance is. The phenomenon of extremely early readers, and how they do later on in their education and in their adult lives, is surely a lot more interesting topic than those of many Ed.D. theses, I think.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for the most recent comments from Doug and Mary Beth. Mary Beth, in answer to your question on TV, I've posted on TV before on my blog (check the labels) and have recently written a post on the impact of new media on children(including TV) - CLICK HERE. I've suggested no TV for children under 2 (see Jason's comment on this same post). I plan to do a second post on YBCR and when I do I'll address the issue of viewing TV for children under 2 years. Trevor

Michael said...

Sorry since this long, but I have been weighing Your Baby Can Read for a long time. Hopefully I can get across what I have recently come to see.

When I watched YBCR on TV a while ago I was really impressed...at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered about the total effects it could have on a child. Since then I have been looking to if I could resolve some concerns but I have not been able to resolve them. Here are my thoughts.

The positive:
The good news is that I believe this program could help kids with disabilities, in that they can communicate some basic things better than they are currently able to. Yes a multiple path approach to learning words is good, but it does not ensure that they know how to read. Reading is more than that. It is comprehension, association, dissection and the list goes on. But in basics I think this could help them. Unless is a parent is really skilled I do not in the long run see it as having many benefits…in fact I see potential developmental harm as a whole.

My concerns:
1st – What the time commitment means to the child. Children see attention as love and praise as accomplishment. Some have said that it is only an hour a day with the videos, but that does not take into account the flash cards and the amount of time they take. The philosophy of “Well if you love your child you will be willing to spend time with them” is true, but when applied to YBCR there is the problem. Why is that parents are willing to spend time with “lil Billy” or “lil Julie” when they see it could have “value” for Billy or Julie? …or another defacto influencer “Look what my kid can do.” Yet something such as playing in the dirt, with leaves, rollie pollie bugs, blocks, etc is not deemed as valuable or as glamorous and thus parents are less likely to pursue this with their child??? So love is conditional, as it depends more on the interests of the parents then the child? Spending time with children to see what they like is wonderful. -Curiosity about all things is very valuable to the child and actually the parents…they just may learn something they did not know.

2nd - Conditioned Learning vs. Motivational Learning My experience in working with kids and parents, who schedule “structured time” for their kids, reveals that the parents are determining things they want for their children….essentially they are conditioning them to be someone they want them to be. Some may think, “But my kids would be way ahead of the curve because other kids their age won’t be able to do that…they’ll thank me later.” This is where I feel somewhat ashamed of our capitalist culture and the “thank me latter” attitude. It is often used as an excuse to rob someone of something because the robber knows better…and usually the decision to do so is biased. In actuality children’s development can be hindered by removing them from their ability to explore the environment around them. When a child decides they want to learn about something it is amazing to watch, they become determined to learn. A personal example from my nephew brought this home for me. Like most children he was curious about the world and everything in it. My sister let him do what kids normally do, bugs, dirt, looking at books, etc. Then one day he was curious about the sun and the moon and began to ask questions about them. (His motivation began to be manifest) The more he learned about the sun and how it is warm to us, and can sometime burn skin (from slight sunburn he got from being outside too long), how it gives light, helps things grow, etc. the more he looked at it in wonder. Soon everything was deeper then it seemed. This curiosity did not cause my sister to immediately enroll him in physics classes and start marking up his time for the study of celestial bodies, she just would answer his questions when he had them and then he would go on and play. The story continues but this brings up my next concern.

3rd - Recognition & Association vs. Formulation & Creation All are needed for a child’s brain to develop normally, but YBCR seems to focus primarily on Recognition & Association. This ensures a greater development of the left brain, which means in the early years of American school systems they will do very well, but as more advanced subjects which require thought, creativity etc, the child may ultimately struggle and lag behind. What each person should become is whole brained and children are with few exceptions hard-wired to be pretty balanced…it is only when we impose our desires upon their learning and development that things begin to change. On to the story of my nephew to illustrate this concern: All of his learning was normal and expected, but one day several of us got to see how he had processed all this information. We were having a family function at their house and we pulled up while he was outside playing. The sun was going down. He asked me, “Unkle Ike, why does da sun go down?” He had a hard time with “m”s so he dropped them…it was cute, but notwithstanding the cuteness I was caught off guard not knowing how to answer the question. I fumbled for words in an attempt to explain such a complex thing to a three year old. Thankfully my brother pulled in and after asking him how to explain it he simple said to my nephew, “It goes down because it is tired. It needs to sleep just like you do.” My nephew look confused but accepted the answer and we all went inside. However over time my nephew wasn’t satisfied with the answer. He asked my sister, “Mama why does da sun go down?” My sister was holding her second child and having to adjust to being pregnant with her third, she replied tiredly. “Son, why do you think?” He responded, “I dunno mama.” My sister’s next reply was evident of her exhausted plight but was said in a loving way, “Son, God gave you a brain and I know you can figure it out.” I was horrified my lack of a good answer resulted in a complex challenge to a three year old. I just kind of sheepishly retreated but I had a feeling to watch him and I glad I did because I almost missed it. He actually sat down and began looking around as if trying to figure out. He began flipping his hands, picking this up and looking at them. After some time he asked “Mama, is it because the earth turns around?” I was floored as so was everyone else who knew what he was asking. This is the power of a balanced learning style a child gets to use Recognition, Association, Formulate and Creation in any way they can to develop ideas and concepts. The praise and attention he got from this was from all. And we now move on to my next concern.

4th – Pavlo’s dogs related to parenting and childhood It is a sad fact that children will gravitate to where they feel their needs are met. If they only feel love (attention) and accomplishment (praise) with this word learning program (or primarily from it) then they will have little desire for anything else. My nephew got praise and love for his accomplishment, but physics was not his only self-interested encouraged activity. In the case of YBCR, I fear that the temptation for many parents will cause them to spend quality time with their child doing it, then not unlike Pavlo’s dogs the children will get happy and excited the moment they see the flash cards coming. And ironically the parents like Pavlo’s dogs will be salivating more eager to do it because they think the child must really want to, but actually they have been conditioned to want to. The exploration of childhood and many of its wonders are not to be neglected for sake of one skill deemed to be more important than others.

Finally - Children learning how to “read” If you want your child to learn how to read, read with them! What a novel concept…besides it is far more powerful. I am not suggesting just reading words; I am suggesting getting into the stories. As parents we might feel a little embarrassed when we try to spice up the reading with different voices, but honestly we are performing for the kindest and most forgiving audience. I can truly say that I have never heard a child give a parent a poor review, “Dad don’t read to me again that was terrible.” Seriously now, children love their parents naturally and we are seen as the experts. The only time a child will criticize is if they have grown up in an environment where it exists. But actually reading with the intent of telling a story…For example they will hear the change in the inflection of your voice as you play the part of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. They will quickly learn he is scary and out to get her. They will soon understand that the false setto voice when the wolf fakes to be grandma means the wolf is trying to deceive her. They are learning more than words, they are learning life and they are learning to create with words, not just associate.

I hope this helps, but I prefer not to have my children in this kind of a structured environment which develops one skill at the cost of another. I am content to let them crawl and develop their motor skills, put things in their mouth and develop their internalization skills and so on.

Trevor Cairney said...

I love the fact that my blog post has led many people to write responses that are longer than the original post. I'm afraid that there are too many issues in the two most recent posts for me to pick up on now but I'll make a couple of quick comments:

1. Larry is right to say that "the whole language/phonics dispute is largely irrelevant" - my post didn't attempt to open up this debate. As I've already said above, my critique relates largely to the use of this type of strategy at such a young age. Of course whole word strategies have relevance for readers, and of course some children will learn some incidental phonics, but this program unnaturally uses this strategy with VERY young children.

2. I have also commented on the loss of time involved with this program. Time that I believe would be better spent doing other things with children as young as 18 months (Michael picks up on this issue above).

3. I have also pointed to the lack of evidence that this program will lead to long-term gains in literacy for children and the fact that we have no ideas if it could harm children. Once again Michael touches on this. There is a whole body of scientific research that warns of the dangers of TV for children under 2 years.

4. I've never told readers of the blog not to use this program but I have said that I wouldn't use it with my children or grandchildren. Now Larry you can dismiss my research credentials established over the last 30+ years (that are good enough for me to be on the editorial boards of the world's two leading international research journals in literacy) and instead trust your own judgement, assess your child's your child's level of risk, use the program anyway and wait for more research evidence later, but once again, I'd warn against it.

I will do a second post on this program (when I have time) and pick up on many of the other arguments in the comments above. Thanks everyone, Trevor.

a_mom said...

While I respect everyone's opinions, I must say I became slightly defensive reading some of these posts. I purchased Dr. Titzer's YBCR program for my 5 month old. This program will NOT replace him playing in the dirt and eating grass. No one has ever said it will be one way or the other? Why can’t it be both? Also, if any of you have actually delved into the instructions that go along with these videos they are very interactive and simply another way to play with your child. We clap, make animal sounds, learn body parts, and sing songs with hand motions on top of the repetition of words. This 20 minute video does not expose him to the graphic nature of other television and therefore should not be linked to an increase in sexual experimentation, drugs, etc from the "media exposure of 2 year olds and under" article. Stating this also puts educational programs like “Sesame Street” and “Baby Einstein” on the same chopping block. 20 minutes a day is not a substantial amount of time. It in fact supports and supplements our play and his learning. I am in no way aiming for a child prodigy, but I want the best for my child and believe that education is the key. Children who lag behind in school and have difficulty reading do not enjoy learning and end up hating school. It is proven that children learn language easiest the younger they are. I certainly don't have 30 years experience nor have I published anything, but I am a teacher because I am a mother. YBCR builds on sight vocabulary or the whole word approach. But, it also introduces phonics and allows children to discover patterns in language by themselves. This seems far more interesting to me than having to learn 26 random symbols and each sound associated with them all at once. The best way to learn to read is a balanced approach and this program states and defends that concept. I leave you all with this message, my son, even at a mere 5 months, enjoys the videos as much as he does reading books, looking at pictures, playing outside, going on walks, etc. How can I tell? He laughs, coos, babbles and flails around like a typical baby. As long as he is enjoying it, we will continue on with the program.

Fabiola said...

My husband watched the infomercial and got really exited. We are expecting our second child and he could not picture a better (cool) thing for our baby. Our eldest (now 7) is in second grade and is at the highest third grade reading level . He is also bilingual and I'm now beginning to teach him to read in Spanish. We didn't use any "special" program with him, so my husband wondered how much better he would've done with the program. Having grown up in a success driven society, he want to give him every edge.

As soon as I saw it, I realized it's not for us. I personally have always thought that the huge emphasis in the written word undermines the importance of the oral tradition. And yet most of our learning is through the development of language as a whole, specially the spoken language. That's how must of us exchange ideas. How many lectures, conferences, parties and phone conversations have you been part of lately?

My eldest was neither an early reader or a late bloomer. (Honestly it bother me, since I was proud of having learned to read at four on my own). Yet he had a vast vocabulary, full of imagery, metaphor and rhyme. All of which has help him not only with his reading and comprehension, but his writing as well. And he is a grammar stickler, maybe because he hears his dad correct my non-native English, hahaha. He loves learning and he'll do great at school and life because he has parents who care. Period.

Perhaps that's were the success of this programs lies. Parents who are concerned about the well being and success of their children are the most likely to adopt "special" programs, pay for tutoring, become involved at their children school and overall inculcate in their children the importance of education. I doubt this program in particular puts any kid at any advantage, other than having parents who put time aside to make sure their children are learning something. Not all children have that luxury.

Trevor, thank your for such a great blog I'll make sure to visit in the future and be briefer in my comments =).

Best, Fabiola.

Dana said...

Wow I have just read all the comments of late made on this blog and found it to be a very interesting debate. I am a mom of 2. A 4 year old and a 10 month old. I saw the infomercial on TV for YBCR and thought it looked like a good thing to get for both my children. Then I got online to look up the website and saw some reviews which then led me here. After reading this blog and its reviews I am not sure what to do as far as getting the YBCR videos but I can say that it seems to me that the combination of whole word association and phonetics is the overall theme that gets appraoched in each side of this debate. Which makes me laugh a little thinking why do these entries at times sound so defensive. The overall goal for everyone here is caring for our children(or should be)not who is right or wrong. I don't think learning (when it comes to reading) in any capacity is bad for a child unless it is done heavily in one way. Meaning if it is the same thing over and over again with no expansion or elaboration such as physical play or interaction etc. Mind you I am not an expert, I am just a mom who wants the best for her children. But by taking the information given to me here and from other sources of expertise I think I will buy the videos and incorporate(or elaborate on what already be ther) my own way of helping my kids sound out the letters and put them together,as I do already with my 4 year old daughter. Maybe what YBCR is good for is helping the parent with the instruction of reading,actual reading, while teaching them whole aord association. But it definately should not be the sole source of learning to read which again seems to be what almost everyone is saying in this blog. I applaude you Dr. Cairney in your effort of research and expertise in this blog entry and I think it is very informative and helpful. To those of you who want to attack keep in mind everyone has an opinion and is entitled to that opinion as you have and the good Dr. left the blog open to us to make a decision not forcing his opinion on people just giving his opinion/research to people. So to you attackers, so why not do the same

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for your helpful (and gracious) comments Dana. You could be forgiven for thinking that this discussion has been all about whole word recognition and phonics, but that was not what my original post was about. Many of the comments that respondents have made would make much more sense if we were discussing the program for 4-5 year olds. My greatest concern has always been that the program has been designed for 1-2 year olds. You sound like someone who knows that a balance approach to teaching reading is best (I agree and wrote a book over 25 years ago that you can still buy that advocates just this - "Balancing the Basics"). Of course don't forget that most kids don't start to read until about 5-6 years old. While a number of people have commented that there is no reason not to start earlier I have constantly warned that this may not be helpful. The latest brain research on the impact of TV on children under 2 is reason enough to be cautious. Clearly parents believe that their children will gain some advantage by starting to read sight words from 18 months. There is very little research evidence to suggest that this will be the case. True, we do need additional research but normally in most fields of human research (e.g. pharmaceutical research) we wait till after we get the evidence before we start trying things for which we are unsure of the impact.

Liz Pakkala said...

How about for a mildly autistic child? Would this be a good idea? Your thoughts will be reatly appreciated.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Liz, thanks for your question. I’m not an expert on Autism but I know enough to have a stab at this. I think I said either in the original post or in one of my comments above that I saw that Titzer’s approach might be of use for children with learning disabilities, and older children who are struggling with early reading. But Autism is another question. I’m assuming that you have an autistic child or know someone who has an autistic child. As you probably know there are wide variations in what autism is (or how it presents itself in individuals). Essentially (for the benefit of other readers) it’s a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. It is also associated with restricted and repetitive behaviour. It typically starts before a child is three years old.

People who work with Autistic children typically find that different children need different kinds of help, there don’t seem to be two identical Autistic children. Learning to communicate is usually an important first step; spoken language can be tough for Autistic children.

Could it be used (say) with a 5 year-old Autistic child? Maybe, depending on the child. I suspect that for children with mild autism that it might help some children to make a start with reading. But I’d offer a caution. I suspect that many Autistic children will need more holistic work on language and communication at first before approaching structured approaches like YBCR. But, if you have a 5 year-old Autistic child who is making good progress with communication but is not yet literate and being slow to acquire knowledge of sight words then it might be worth a try. My own instinct would be to try first things like the Language Experience Approach (see my previous post on this topic here)

I hope this is of some help Liz.

Morgen said...

I am 44 years old and my father taught me to read as a baby. I don't remember him doing it so I must have been very young, but I do remember always being able to read. I was even able to figure out words phonetically. I was very advanced in school and won many spelling bees. When I was about 5 my mother taught me math and by 2nd grade I was doing multiplication, division and fractions. My i.q. was 153.

The only downside to MY early learning was when I started public school it was sheer torture. There were no advanced programs for me like there are for my children today. School became a dreaded activity and I lost interest in trying to force my square peg into their round hole. If one has an early reader beware of this tremendous downfall. Don't send your child to public schools.

Your assumptions about this reading program are not grounded in fact. It is a great thing to know how to read early as reading leads to SELF education, which is really the only kind of education there is. This program is great, just be aware of the concequences. A genius will be the result.

Trevor Cairney said...

Morgen, Morgen, Morgen, I did not say not to teach children to read early. Read my blog and it will be obvious that I say the opposite, begin reading to them, expand their vocabulary, teach them informally etc (from birth!). What is at issue here is whether parents should introduce their children to a structured early sight word program as early as 12-18 months.

As well, what facts are you suggesting that I have wrong? Please re-read my post and let the readers of this blog know. I suggest to you that there are no wrong facts in my post (or my comments above). Could I also respectfully point out that you don't present any facts in support of your defence of YBCR. One case (you) of an early reader, who didn't even use YBCR, is not evidence in support of the early use of this program.

Larry said...

Wait a minute there Trevor. You say, "I did not say not to teach children to read early." Yet you say, "What is at issue here is whether parents should introduce their children to a structured early sight word program as early as 12-18 months." The latter statement implies that, on your view, parents should not introduce such a program to 12-18 month olds. Doesn't it? And the implication is that Titzer's is such a program. So, if you're not just being intentionally cagey in order to minimize your argumentative obligations, you must think that there might be some other way to start 12-18 month olds on a reading program (successfully?!), a way that is not "a structured early sight word program." I assume that, if Titzer is out, Doman is out too, right? Both Titzer and Doman show excellent anecdotal evidence that very little kids can be taught to read, and my own 2-year-old is reading quite well using a method that borrows on both, but is much heavier on phonics.

So while you oppose methods like Titzer's and probably Doman's as well, you also go on, "I say the opposite, begin reading to them, expand their vocabulary, teach them informally etc (from birth!)." But you surely don't claim that doing all those things will successfully create 2-year-old readers like mine. Right? Surely not, because then wouldn't we have to worry about the dangers of your methods of early literacy?? Why wouldn't we have to worry about your methods, if they produced such results?

No, I get the impression, and I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong, that at bottom you really don't like it if a 1-year-old is recognizing a few hundred words, or a 2-year-old is reading thousands of words with comprehension. That's a very problematic situation for you, isn't it? Or is it that you could approve of the situation, but only if parents had followed your methods, and not Titzer's or Doman's?

Hmm, I really must not be understanding something here.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Larry, You're right on this occasion when you say "I really must not be understanding something here" - no you aren't understanding what I'm saying because you're so convinced, based on your single case (your own child), that YBCR is going to change your child's life and give them an edge on all other children. You keep missing my point! Of course you can get some two year olds to read words, but this does not mean that what you are doing Larry will:

* lead ultimately to a child who reads better than other children of the same age at say 10, 12, or 18 years;

* lead to a child with rich language who can use literacy for learning, enjoyment, social action etc;

* lead to a child who is creative, inquisitive and thirsty for learning;

* lead to a well adjusted child who reads, writes and learns for all sorts of intrinsic purposes.

I have no idea what you are getting at with your comments at the end about it being problematic for me "if a 1-year-old is recognizing a few hundred words, or a 2-year-old is reading thousands of words with comprehension" (but you seem to be implying that I have other motives and agendas - I Don't!).

Larry, I've devoted 37 years of my life to research and teaching centred on my desire for all children to have a chance to acquire the ability to read and write. Please read some of my other 200+ publications and 7 books, parent education programs etc and you should get the picture that I want children to read and write. But we have a different conception of what it means to read, write and comprehend. Knowing the meanings of hundreds or even thousands of words is NOT comprehension, its called knowledge of vocabulary. And, yes this is one part of what your child will need to be the type of proficient literacy user that I have devoted much of my life to producing. But it is just one part Larry, and what is at question here is whether teaching this part to your child in a highly structured way at age 18 months (3+ years earlier than we have in the past) is a wise use of your time. The jury is also still out on whether it might even be harmful intellectually, emotionally and even physically. Research on the impact of television on brain activity for children under the age of two years would lead me to be cautious about YBCR, even if there were no other reasons to question it (and there are many).

No Larry, you really haven't understood me, but I can't do any more to make a very simple point any clearer.

Thanks for your comment, but please read some of my other posts. Trevor

Kerry Watson said...

I have no vested interest in this discussion, having no young children, but my interest in the subject was piqued after watching an infomercial. I wanted to see if it was a delightful work of magical film editing or whether it was true. Since it appears from my research that it might be true, I have only a cautionary anecdote for those parents considering purchase of this program.

Seeing very young children read was disturbing to me, because I was a very young reader for my time at age 3. My family highly valued reading and education as the path from poverty. Sadly I was placed into the school system at a young age 4 with peers who were 1-2 years older than me. Throughout my school career I was intellectually ahead of them, but lagged way behind socially. As a result I was an outcast, unstimulated by the curriculum yet not able to interact meaningfully with my peers. Social development was not considered relevant in those days. While many of my peers eventually caught up to me, I never lost the sense of being a social outcast and struggled with trying to fit in my whole life.

Because my childhood experience was so traumatic, when I had my own daughter I was careful to create for her a well-rounded environment that valued her social development equally with her educational development. I waited until she signaled that she was ready and interested in a subject such as reading before I taught her. I kept her out of Kindergarten for an extra year so that she was one of the eldest in her class, not the youngest. I did not place quantifiable learning - i.e. grades - as the sine qua non, the way my family had done to me. Today my daughter is a well-rounded, socially adjusted, confident, educated, happy and successful adult. I believe this is due to my emphasis on being well-rounded, but it's only one anecdote; you may draw your own conclusions. I hope that someday parents and educators will value the social development of children equally with their educational development.

If you are not prepared and financially able to provide a special advanced education to your child for their entire childhood, not just years one and two, I implore you to not embark upon a path of creating a freak who will feel different and outcast for his or her entire life. There are unintended consequences to everything we do for our children. Watching a video with your baby a few minutes each day may seem like a small thing, but it has profound consequences later on. Perhaps you struggled with reading as a child, and consequently you want to give an advantage to your own child that you did not have - all parents do it; I did too. Please understand that even if you were a late reader, you enjoyed social advantages that I did not have with my family's laser focus on reading and education.

For the sake of balance it should be noted that reading also brought me great joys in my life. As a sickly child I spent entire days and weeks reading alone in bed, endeavored to read every book in the library until I learned they were constantly adding more, and began reading adult books at the end of third grade.

Nevertheless, reading adult books by third grade only reinforced how poorly I fit in, a child with an adult's mind. I sought out older and older peers and eventually married a man thirteen years older than me - where I felt I belonged.

A cautionary tale for all parents who want to create very young readers.

Bill said...

Trevor,

I appreciate your shared insights given your extensive experience in this area. Could you spend a moment to outline what the long term negatives might arise from the balenced implementation of such a program?

You say the "jury is still out", so perhaps you could highlight some of the negatives of other fad programs which did not stand the test of time.

I think that would help everyone better understand your reservations to a parent's balanced implemention of the YBCR program. I assume your reservations arise from experience, rather than simple conservatism to the status quo.

Also, why did the state of California curtail their word recognition program? Was it due to inferior results to phoenic methods or was it something else (ie cost of retraining faculty, etc)?

Cheers,
Bill

Larry said...

Trevor, I am interested in your answer to Bill's question: "Could you spend a moment to outline what the long term negatives might arise from the balanced implementation of such a program?"

If I understand your arguments in this really fascinating discussion (which I may not), your most powerful argument against YBCR is one you share with some other educationists and psychologists: it, like other very early childhood reading programs, might have some bad long-term effects. We really don't know, because we haven't done the studies. So parents who use these programs are putting their children at risk. That seems to be what you're saying.

But you haven't really elaborated this key argument. So, indeed, in a balanced practice of YBCR, what long term negatives might you expect to see after proper studies are performed? I assume Bill means by "balanced" one that is carried out according to instructions, so for example the kid isn't complaining.

I'm just very curious about this. I don't intend to argue with you.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for your comments Bill and Larry. Yes, I will address your questions when I get the chance (I'm a bit stretched at the moment). Your question about possible long term negative impacts deserves a considered response which I'll give in the form of a second post in the next couple of weeks. Trevor

no name required said...

Many of your commented about the long term benefits. I learned to read at age 4. I was started early in kindergarten because of my reading ability. Unfortunately reading was the only thing I was good at and was behind on most of the other skills. My sister started talking at 9 months and dashed ahead of the other kids. By highschool, although she remained an honor student, most of all the other student had caught up. We both were also often bored. Several kindergarten teachers have told me that the kids who come into K already reading are frequently bored because they have to teach the kids all the same. I also belong to a chat group where all the members have learning disabilities and we all compare how we have learned with how our siblings and school mates learned. it's quite educational. So even though this is anecdotal information, it could shed some light on long term effects, or lack there of. I wouldn't mind using this method for my 6 year old as he's easily bored and too impatient to learn all the phonetics

Larry said...

To "no name required": this is highly interesting. What you say makes sense: if a child is reading early and then goes through an ordinary school education, that would be boring and might indeed kill his or her motivation and, then, academic performance.

I think an argument could be made that those who teach their children to read from an early age have an obligation to see to it that they are not bored in school later. Either put the child in a "gifted and talented" school or, maybe better, do home schooling.

Angela C. said...

Wow, all these comments. This is a long post... I'd like to share how it actually went with my 2 year old and the Your Baby Can Read program, because for reasons I'll speculate on, I saw negative affects on her behavior and mood within just a few weeks of using the program! This has led me to step back and look at the big picture as a whole. I know my child's love of wonder and her overall nature, very well. After my experience with YBCR, I must retreat back to my mantra that almost always comes to the surface as if it were some universal truth, Harmony is a balance, not an extreme. YBCR was apparently an extreme for us and did not go well.

My daughter seemed to like the program the first few times I put it on, but even so, she quickly grew bored within 10 minutes, and her attention only continue to decrease when she saw that I was repeating it twice daily. We interacted, as we always do with the select educational TV that I allow, and I tried to make "learning fun" as usual, and as recommended by the program. The program also suggests (and sort of cuts down) almost all other TV, so I tried to limit or subtract any and all other TV. My child grew increasingly unhappy and I saw the shift in her daily mood. She would always look away from the screen when they showed the word, and tend to look only when they showed the images/photos or children/animals in action. Pretty soon, she looked away EVERY time the DVD showed a word, and the poor child developed what seemed like full blown ADHD in that she could not hold still at all. I had never seen my child behave this way! By all accounts, her behavior simply indicated to me that the program was boring her and she was missing the other "more appealing" stimulus she'd be brought up with thus far, and grown to love. Bottom line, if she refused to look at the word, there was no way she was going to learn to recognize, read, memorize, or whatever. She simply wasn't going to learn what the program claimed.

Here's what I think has happened, even though I'm no expert... I'm just telling it as I see it, with my instinct and intuition firmly in tact. My child was brought up with Brainy Baby and Baby Einstein videos, and a very selective choice of educational TV, because quite frankly, as a new inexperienced parent, I didn't know any better. I only knew I wanted my baby to learn, and that she was ripe for it, and this was one avenue to take. I've always participated with her in this approach, versus plopping her down in front of the TV to be taken care of while I do what I want. I've always talked to her and explained to her what she was watching. (And I think she's smart now because of all that extra talking I've done). Plus we've always read books, since day 1 even, and I often point to words as I pronounce them and we spell words on the fridge, make the sounds of the individual letters, etc. Shortly after age 1, my baby knew all her shapes, all her colors, favorite songs, the basics on how many things function, she knew how to recognize and say every letter in the alphabet, every animal known to man, how to count almost to 20, she learned about emotions, foods, and many of the elements involved in music and all of the instruments.

Now I don't know about you folks, or the experts, but I thought I had a very well rounded smart child at a young age because of my participation with, and help from, all of this select television offered. So what's the big deal? TV is a modern day device, and we use it. Books are equally a part of her life. I haven't seen a problem with it and it has helped me teach my child.

I might also point out that even though Dr. Titzer generally cut down my particular "TV approach," I don't think he had the quality of such TV viewing some 16 or more years ago with his own daughter. And who's to say she wasn't going to be a genius, or early graduate, regardless of any program?

When I stopped "pushing" the YBCR program on my child, she returned back to her wonderful nature. That of a child enthusiastically eager to see the world and absorb all the info that came her way, with ease. So maybe she's an intuitive learner and instinctively sees no reason to obliterate harmony by going to an extreme? She wants to learn whatever comes at her but it will have to be appealing, and many things are naturally appealing to her, but not this program!! I trust that she'll naturally get to the point where she wants to know what that word says and how it says it, and I will encourage this - not force it. If I try to do it with a system that doesn't "jive" with her, and everything about her nature is telling me this is not fun for her, I'd prefer to listen to, respect, honor her nature, and stop doing it, or at least minimize the process, rather than have a negative impact on her perception of learning.

Price is no object when it comes to my child's health and happiness, but the price of the program is too high considering we can play with and make our own flash cards, and perhaps find DVDs that are a bit more engaging. I'd rather her be enthusiastic than bored, because that's what stimulates her to learn. Okay, so it's "my bad" that she was brought up with visuals that were so fun that now she views the YBCR as the most boring thing I've ever made her sit through. I guess we'll have to search out something more interesting so she'll continue to be a bright and happy learner, and if we can't find it, we'll create it somehow. So she won't enter first grade knowing how to read... neither did I. Guess I won't get to brag.

Angela C. said...

May I add one more thing? If I've learned anything in my two short years of parenthood, it is that you absolutely cannot force an infant or toddler to do these things...

You cannot force them to sleep.

You cannot force them to poop.

You cannot force them to eat what they don't want.

And you cannot force them to learn what they are not ready to learn.

At least not without some negative affects on their psyche.

Anonymous said...

My 11 year old can drive a car....but is he really ready for a drivers license!!??

Seriously, let babies be babies!

Daniele said...

My daughter started using this program at the age of two, she is now 27 months old. She loves the program and asks for the dvds all of the time. PLaying is learning for a young child. There is no wasted time on this program. I let my daughter watch the dvds while I'm in the kitchen cleaning, they're about 20 minutes long. She loves reading the words on the cards and has even started to recognize word that aren't in the program. Maybe if you would like some proof as to how the child excels later on in life, you should take a gander at Dr. Titzer's two daughters. I love this program, and I love the fact that my daughter just might have an easier time with the rest of her education because of it.

Natalie Waters said...

I stumbled upon your blog while searching for some information about YBCR. I just received it from my parents as a gift for my daughter, their first grandchild who is now 15 months old. I had an uneasy feeling about the program but couldn't put my finger on it. Thank you for your thoughtful review! I read to my daughter all the time and ask her questions about what she is seeing on the page. I sometimes point to the words as I read so she understands the correlation a bit. We go outside in the rain and pick tomatoes in the garden together. I try to engage her beautiful mind every chance I get. I am certainly drawn to a more natural style of learning that just happens while being together (I noticed you have a wonderful post regarding this). I think the principles of unschooling are very interesting and certainly this program is the opposite to the unschooling approach. Thanks for the validation! I can now politely decline with a little more of an explaination than I had before. :)

Dpfny said...

This is a very heated topic. I was also looking at the program YBCR. I personally would not choose this program for my children, it might help some. This program teaches a very holistic approach to reading. Whole language has been proven that it is not an effective practice. I'm sure some parents will argue that their children read just fine through the whole language approach. Whole language relies on the premise that if you immerse a child with sight words and literature they will learn to read naturally just like how children learn to speak. Reading is not a natural thing. The researchers all agree that there is a science to reading. Read works of Stanovich, Juel, and Allington. Babies need phonemic awareness at this point. They need lots of language and words being introduced. Check out the website http://www.multcolib.org/birthtosix/babies.html.

Linda said...

Trevor...I have a unique situation maybe you can help shed some light on. My daughter is 15, has a degenerative brain dissorder, and is only reading at a first grade level. Of course we didn't think she'd be able to read at all, but then she had brain surgery 3 years ago and has made excellent strides in learning! She is a very visual learner, able to memorize by sight. But with reading she relies on phonetic, and she focuses on the letters rather than the whole word or sentence. THerefore, I wonder if this program would benefit her. Any comments on this?

Anonymous said...

hi im preganant with my first child and was doing some research about the whole "your baby can read thing". so far I havent seen any evidence that its harmful to the children. I think it depends on the child or children if it will help them or not. No it shouldnt be the only thing that teaches your child. Its the parents job to do that. When I was young I couldnt read untill maybe 2nd grade and I still cant spell very well. My parents did read with me and try to help me. I guess I was just a late bloomer.I now love to read and in middle school had the reading compacity of a collage student. Spelling is still very hard for me. All im saying is it depends on the child if the program works. I might buy this program but it probable wont get used much unless my child seems to enjoy it. If it doesnt work for my child then it doesnt work for my child. But I still dont see any harmful side affects from trying it.

alterego said...

I am appreciating all the passion behind these YBCR posts. As an educator and parent, I agree with Trevor- passionately. :) After viewing YBCR commercials and now reading various opinions on the program (I came to the computer to research criticism on the program and found this blog), I am reminded that we're living in a culture that currently encourages REALLY competitive parenting, how products are unabashedly marketed to us reinforcing this idea, and how defensive parents are about what their children can and cannot do. I know I am guilty of this at times. I just want to encourage everyone to be really thoughtful in their approaches and their reasons behind them- whatever they may be.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks to everyone who has made a comment in recent times. As you can see, I haven't commented on this first post on for some time (not since January!). A few quick responses:

* I've done a second post on YBCR that addresses in more detail the issues surrounding acceleration (this relates to 'No Name Required's' comment).
* Daniele's comment reinforces what I've said before on this blog, all children are different. We shouldn't assume that one method is the best method for all children.
* Thanks Natalie, 'Dpfny' and Alterego for your contributions.
* Linda, you do have a unique situation and as such your solution needs to meet the needs of your special child. It's intriguing that she is a "visual learner" and can memorise from sight, but reads phonetically. This isn't usual. In your daughter's special case, as a 15 year old with a brain injury, you could give the program a try. You could also simply use a basic sight word approach using cards and words that have significance to her rather than generic words in a program like YBCR. There may also be some benefit in trying the Language Experience Approach as well. Having said this, if she responds well to a phonics-based approach you might just go with it. I've done a post on phonics before CLICK HERE. All the best with the support of your daughter.

Thanks everyone for contributing to this ongoing debate, Trevor

Larry said...

alterego wrote: "...I am reminded that we're living in a culture that currently encourages REALLY competitive parenting..."

I don't know whether "our culture" encourages competitive parenting, but the suggestion seems to be that parents use YBCR only because they are competitive. This dismisses, without a hearing, any legitimate motive for teaching children very early. Sorry, but that is not an argument. Perhaps parents like myself chose YBCR because we want our children to develop their minds excellently, not because we want our children to be better than others.

alterego also said: "I just want to encourage everyone to be really thoughtful in their approaches and their reasons behind them- whatever they may be." The implication appears to be that those favoring YBCR are not "really thoughtful in their approaches." (If there were no such implication, then what is the point of saying this at all?) I would find the implication insulting if it were not so ridiculous. I have spent many, many hours thinking through every aspect I could about the wisdom of teaching my child to read at such an early age. I've read relevant books and tried to engage experts in conversation. Despite that I have not been able to unearth a single piece of scientific, evidence-based reasoning that militates strongly--or even at all-against the use of programs like YBCR (as directed, within reason, etc.). When I start looking or asking for details about for what sound like vague innuendo (such as that parents are merely motivated by competitiveness), I come up empty-handed.

Well, consider some facts, and if you want to say that these are anecdotal facts, bear in mind that they are anecdotes about my boy, the one I care most about. I started using YBCR with my boy when he was 22 months old. We used it for around 4 months, if I remember right. Before that, he had learned his ABCs due to my reading zillions of books to him, including many ABC books. And while he was using YBCR, I showed him a lot of flashcards (only, of course, when he was interested) of words arranged into phonetic groupings. The result is that now, 14 months later, he is sounding out words at the 4th grade level (and understanding books like "Charlotte's Web" when I read them to him--but he can read out of that book, too, on request). I look regularly for any evidence that he is turned off to learning, that he is less creative, that he does not want to play, or whatever one might fear. Nothing. In fact, he seems unusually bright and eager to learn. He's basically just a regularly lively, cheerful, curious little boy who happens to know how to read. This isn't mainly due to YBCR, I think. I think it's mainly because I have read so much to him (usually over an hour a day). But I know YBCR helped, because I was sitting beside him when he was watching those videos and I saw very rapid progress. So when I read the stories from others who use YBCR, and the very similar (and much older) Doman program, that they had a similar experience, I think--well, there is really something going on here.

And say, alterego, suppose I am motivated by crass competitiveness, though I cannot even admit it to myself. Would such a low motivation make it a bad thing that my 3-year-old can read as well as he can?

Finally, I would like to point out something interesting. As far as I know, none of the critics of YBCR have actually used the program or seen it directly in use. But the defenders of the program, like myself, have used it. I would be a lot more impressed by the arguments on the other side if they came from people who had used the program, or Doman-type programs, and ended up having a bad experience with it.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Larry, nice to hear from you again. I'll leave Alterego to defend herself against some of the comments you make. As to your comment that "As far as I know, none of the critics of YBCR have actually used the program or seen it directly in use", this is not the case. Even on this blog, if you read the comments you'll find people who have used it and rejected it, or who have seen it and rejected it. As well, I have received many anonymous comments that criticise the program after using it, but that have been so abusive that I have not posted them. I rarely post an anonymous comment anyway except if there are good reasons for the commenter wanting to remain anonymous. Your statement also ignores research that has been drawn on in the discussion at this blog (both posts) and in other places in relation to child development, language and literacy development, accelerated learning, brain development etc. Anyway, nice to hear from you. Trevor

alterego said...

Larry, I think it's great you're investing so much in your child. I was merely raising awareness to one way of many to consider how we go about things as parents. I think the downside of competitive parenting is that it can cause us to be so defensive we aren't willing or able to view things in a new light. As I said before, I have been guilty of this myself. The upside is, we are making every effort to wholly invest in our kids. Also, I neglected to mention in my prior hurried post that I have viewed two of the YBCR DVDs personally (my neighbor uses them). I admit to being skeptical prior to viewing them. However, as an educator, was interested in how YBCR was approaching the teaching of reading. I continue to be skeptical and have negative feelings about it knowing what I do about literacy and brain development. I would like to encourage those that use it to also do research on early literacy and brain development. Tevor has some great links.

By the way, my name is Rachel. Mom of 2, elementary teacher for 10 years and still absolutely loving it every day. :)

Thank you for this blog, Trevor. I discovered it just yesterday and have passed it along to many other teachers and friends who I know will also benefit from it!

Larry said...

Rachel, maybe you should explain what you mean by "competitive parenting." You're throwing this very loaded term around in a rather high-handed and accusatory way.

Look, having "negative feelings" is, however valid in itself, not a sound analytical technique nor especially persuasive. And I've done lots of reading about early literacy and brain development, and I've looked at Trevor's links in his more recent blog post (more about that later, perhaps). So, no offense, but I am impressed neither by negative feelings that I do not share nor by allusions to expert opinion, especially when all hands are well agreed that there haven't been anything where near adequate studies on the effectiveness or beneficiality of the technique. So if you want me, Rachel, or anyone, to reconsider my position, I would recommend that you resort to actual substantive arguments.

Frankly, I am fed up with the amount of ad hominem, open and veiled, that passes for argument in our society. Can't we talk about the subject itself, and its merits, and not jockey for position about who knows and understands what? Why not prove that your understanding is superior, if it is?

JamesN said...

Trevor I think I understand and completely agree with your reservations about this program. They seem to have some qualifications though. Im interested in what age you think this kind of program would be appropriate for and to what degree-meaning what would be the appropriate blend of this style and say phonics?

Specifically I have a 3 year old that, as far as I can tell, is sharp as a tack but doesn't speak very often or in complete sentances. I assume part of it is his older brother talks enough for everyone in the family and part is laziness or lack of interest. It is difficult to sit him down and read to him because he invariably picks out the pages he likes and makes me go over them again and again or shows no interest in the book altogether. I work with that and make it as educational and entertaining as possible but its very frustrating.

I'm of the general belief that children learn and progress when they're ready to do so and to try to push them is fruitless, but I'm very tempted to try this as PART of a learning strategy. If he shows interest could it be the jumpstart he needs?

I guess this is somewhat of a strange question since I'm more worried about speech than reading, but it seems it could be beneficial to both?

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Andrew, Thanks for your comment. I can't see from your description that YBCR is what your boy needs most at this stage. I think I'd persist with language stimulation, creative storytelling and reading and creative play that is rich in language. You might check out some of the other posts on my blog that address some of these topics. Your son isn't unusual in not wanting to sustain the reading page by page. At this awkward stage (more common with boys than girls) you need to make the story reading as exciting as possible. Have a look at my post on 'Reading to your children' HERE. All the best, Trevor

Anonymous said...

Thank you! You have saved me time and money. We all want the best for our children and sorting out what is and is not can sometimes be a challenge.
Thank you again.

A. said...

Sometimes, a video is worth 1,000 words. Here is my own boy reading at 40 months. We have used many tools, especially books, but including "Your Baby Can Read."

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks 'Anonymous' and 'A' for your comments. It seems 'A' that your boy has had a great start in literacy due to the rich and varied environment that you have created for him. He's reading well. Trevor

A. said...

Thanks, Trevor.

Indeed, we read a lot to him, that's the most important thing. But we also watched YBCR for a few months, and did phonics flashcards. If we had not done those two things, he would almost certainly not be reading now.

burgundydragon said...

I found your blog via Google search for YBCR reviews... and wanted to thank you! I haven't seriously considered purchasing YBCR for my girls (ages 22 months and 4 months) but was really curious about what others had to say about it. Your review is very thorough... excellent! Thanks again!

Emily said...

I have read many of the comments posted on this website, and have found it quite interesting that so many people can be so opinionated about a topic that most of us have not studied. Now, I am no expert in this subject; however, I did take a class that specifically talked about how a child develops mentally. I think it's very important for parents out there to recognize the FACTS about this topic so that each of us can make an educated decision about whether or not to use this program.

For starters, it HAS BEEN PROVEN that children around the ages of 3, 4, and 5 learn best by using concrete experiences. This would involve the child touching and seeing what they are learning about. It is also important to note that it is NOT DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE TO USE FLASHCARDS. Though I'm sure many of you have had success with your children by using flashcards, it is important to know that this does not mean your children are learning. It does mean, however, that you're children are successful at memorization.

I also think it's important to mention that it is developmentally appropriate to teach your children scripts, concepts, and theories. It is MUCH BETTER for your child to understand what's going on in the world around them as opposed to being drilled about educational concepts. Spending a lot of time on facts or spending a lot of time trying to teach your child to read is NOT APPROPRIATE OR NECESSARY.

THOUGH CHILDREN WHO BEGAN READING EARLY BY STUDYING FLASHCARDS OR BEING FORCED TO LEARN TO READ AT AN EARLY AGE SEE SUCCESS EARLY ON, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY WILL BE A GENIUS OR AHEAD OF THEIR CLASS FOR VERY LONG. IN FACT, CHILDREN WHO FOCUS ON THEORIES AND CONCEPTS CATCH UP TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEGUN EDUCATIONAL LEARNING EARLY ON. THIS MEANS THAT THOSE WHO EXPERIENCE THIS PROGRAM AND FIND SUCCESS IN IT, MAY NOT EXPERIENCE THAT SUCCESS FOR LONG. THESE ARE PROVEN FACTS AND SHOULD BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION WHILE CONSIDERING THE USE OF THIS PROGRAM.

Instead of drilling your children, use the following activities to enhance cognitive thinking:

jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, moving around, obstacle courses (following directions), water tables, and your own imaginations!

So, for those of you arguing for the success of this program, please understand that the things mentioned above have been proven, despite the success that you may have experienced with this program.

A. said...

Emily, no such things have been "proven," because all the claims you're making here are incredibly vague, and it is logically impossible to prove such vague claims. You are spouting the dogma of education schools, without realizing that it is, to a great extent, dogma. I do agree though that it is "interesting that so many people can be so opinionated about a topic that most of us have not studied." Indeed, I wonder if any of the critics of the program here have actually seen or worked with a toddler who was taught to read. Also, a tip--writing in ALL CAPS does not make your claims any more plausible. It makes them less so, because it makes the reader think that you are motivated more by passion than by reason.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such an interesting string, Trevor. I approach this topic from a slightly different point of view and apologize for being a bit long-winded. I am neither a childhood educator nor a parent. I am, for better or worse, one of the "geniuses" that some of the parents who use this program hope their child will be.

Not all parents are looking to develop the next Einstein, but many are. Whether we like to admit it or not, parenting _has_ become hyper-competitive. Every parent wants the best for his or her child, and feels a swell of pride when saying the child is performing above grade level. I believe many parents probably look at the YBCR program as the golden ticket to having the valedictorian.

I was the valedictorian, and it had nothing to do with my parents drilling me with flash cards or having me watch videos before I was out of diapers. They simply nurtured my natural curiosity. Many times even though they knew the answer to my questions they told me to find the answer on my own either in the dictionary or at the library. Do any of today’s students know how to use a card catalog?

Educators and parents know every child has a distinct learning style. Some are visual, others auditory/verbal, and others tactile. The YBCR seems to try and blend these into one program, and from the videos and testimonials it appears to work on some level. The YBCR is simply another tool for parents to consider. The greatest challenge in measuring the true success of such a program is that such young children are unable to write or converse - and therefore unable to demonstrate they truly understand the meaning and use of the words they are repeating.

I argue there are many more components to being a successful student and citizen than whether or not a person can "read" before the age of two. After all, everyone following this blog and posting comments learned to read without the YBCR...

In closing, although I was not pushed by my parents and did not attend preschool I still wound up ridiculously smart. My brother is the same. Unfortunately we also were hopelessly isolated from our peers. There were many days I wished I were average. Please let your babies be babies and if you choose to use any canned programs to supplement your child’s development use them sparingly instead of as a replacement for parent-child interaction.

Anonymous said...

I purchased the "Your baby can read" set when my daughter was 6 months old. At seven months she was clapping, waving, and recognizing the word "Hi". Now she is 9 months old and is not interested in thes videos at all. She will watch for about 10 minutes then try to crawl away. I have been cutting the videos into 10-15 minute segments, but it does not seem to help. I feel that I may have made a big mistake getting this for her. Is anyone else having this problem?

Tao said...

I'm looking for a good program for my 1 year old daughter to start learning to read. I'm a native Chinese speaker. I do also read English and French the same way I read Chinese -- whole world recognition. I sometimes hesitate about spelling and I probably do not read out loud as well as a native English speaker. But I can skim through pages pretty fast and recognize patterns supper efficiently in a vast data base (I'm a clinical data analyst, using English as my work language).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you can have many different approaches to early child hood language teaching. They have different strength and weakness. I am probably not a good speller because of my approach to language usage, but I gained a tremendous advange as a pattern reader when it comes to
process electronically collected data. Pattern recognition is very important in many types learning other than language and literature. So if spending 1 hours each day is affordable, having a good learning system is not a bad idea. Building a learning regime early is very important. My parents started to teach me read and write very early (before 12 months). The point is really not to become better than peers in just reading, but to open the gateway of many more types of independent learning as early as possible.

In China at the time when I grew up, most of moms had to work full time to make the ends meet. So it's really important for kid's to learn to read as early as possible if they want to spend their time doing something a little more interesting than idling away their entire childhood with some care takers who really do not care that much.

I am happy to find many forums and information about programs such as YBCR online. Thanks for the good web site.

Kesh said...

I thank you very heartily for a clear critique, as a result of which I decided not to buy the spin of Mr. Titzer. To use his program would mean that We would be torturing infants and babies with unnecessary burdens before they are ready.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thank you everyone for comments in the last 6-8 weeks. Thanks BurgundyDragon for your nice comment. Thanks also for your passionate comments Emily. While I don't agree with everything you say, you make some good points. And I'd say to 'A' that while CAPS annoy me too and that some of what Emily says cannot supported quite so dogmatically, many of her comments are based in good research and are not simply "dogma" as you suggest. For example, we do have research that supports the importance of "concrete experiences". Of course, this isn't the only way children aged under 5 years learn, but is a critical way.

Thank you also for the personal insights of 'Anonymous' (the valedictorian) and also to 'Anonymous' who shares her personal experiences with her 9 month old daughter.

Finally, thanks also to Tao for his insights into his experiences in China & for your comments Kesh.

Thanks everyone for your varied perspectives.

Trevor

Kathy said...

I have a question, I have a child who is in school he is 5 yrs old and right now the only thing he can read is numbers, and they are 1/2 way thru the school year, he does have a mild brain injury (cerebral palsey) and Im wondering if it can train by sight memorization for young babies, since my child is in school and learning the way the teachers prefer to teach it would it hurt to allow my child to view it, Im looking for extra help, the school board doesnt seem to care in my opinion, my child isnt disabled, my child is very able, but every child learns differently, and obviously the teaching style or lack on one on one interaction just isnt there/working. what do you think?

crzybutterflylvr said...

I have tried getting into the "Your Baby Can Read" dvd's, but they are lacking something. There is no music, no real excitement in the videos at all. Can you teach your baby to read? I'm sure you can. I don't have babies. My kids are 5 & 7 and my youngest is learning how to read right now. I tried the YBCR videos and they wouldn't keep his attention or interest. In fact I couldn't get him to sit long enough to learn 1 word. I was a bit frustrated having high hopes for the outcome of the video.

A friend of mine did recently have a video on for her 8 month old son. He was clapping and laughing and seemed to love what he was watching. I couldn't help but pay attention when two adorable monkey characters came on and started singing this cute and catchy tune. The concept of the videos are similar to that of "Your Baby Can Read" with a bot of an edge. I recommend anyone that is looking for a good learning video for your child to check out their website. It's www.monkisee.com Our family has really enjoyed their videos. I have found my new gift idea for all my expecting friends.

A. said...

"There is no music, no real excitement in the videos at all." You must not have watched the videos very far. Every one of them has a number of songs. And not all kids may find them exciting, but a lot of little ones do.

Trevor Cairney said...

I’m so sorry to be slow in responding to some of the recent comments (especially Kathy's).

Hi Kathy, thanks for your great question. As I said in some earlier comments, one of my major problems with YBCR is its use at very young ages. Children with learning difficulties related to other conditions often benefit from structured programs. I don’t think it would hurt your child. In fact, I’d be trying everything if my children had learning difficulties. I hope that you are also immersing him in a rich language and play environment. Best wishes as you try new things. I’m happy to answer other questions.

Thanks also to ‘crzybutterflylvr’ for your comments. The material on the site that you mention looks a bit like YBCR so most of what I’ve said before still applies. The DVDs that are listed on the Monkisee site might be appropriate for 3-5 year olds but the claim on their video that the younger you start the better ignores the fact that all parents and teachers need to consider (at all times) whether materials are developmentally appropriate.

Thanks also to ‘Blogger A’ for your contribution.

Best wishes, Trevor

Anonymous said...

I got the YBCR videos and thought that it was a neat idea but they were not great. The videos were a little "dry" and did not keep my son's attention long. Recently though, I came across a different DVD series called Monki See Monki Doo. They also expose children to words but they are much more exiting and fun! My son loves them! They have puppets and nice songs and poems. My son knows all his colors and quite a few of his shapes from one of the videos. The website is ww.monkisee.com. My son really enjoys watching these videos and even brings it to me sometimes to put it on for him! I would definitely recommend these DVD's!

Anonymous said...

I am a mom of a beautiful 5 year old little girl with Down syndrome. In addition to signing, OT, PT, Speech therapy, etc, it has always been our goal to teach reading early to support her speech - specifically, to lengthen the number of words in her spoken sentences through her reading. I researched several programs, including Out-of-the-Box and books written specifically to teach kids with Ds to read. Each program started with introducing sight words and then worked in phonics after 50-100 words were learned. The programs included flashcards, matching games, and books - all of which I would need to create. I liked that YBCR had all this prepared. My daughter is a visual learner - she learned (and implemented) 300 signs from signingtime.com videos - as we did together as a family.
We got it at the '08 holidays and she watched 2x a day for 2 weeks - I was too busy to use the support materials. I was skeptical because I thought the videos were too fast for her - "over her head". I was packing the box up to return and I thought I'd give the flashcards a try .. I was shocked - she read 5 words. Wow! We purchased the program, implemented the cards, read the books each night, and continued to watch the videos a few times a week. Keep in mind, we do a lot of reading books, puzzles, games - lots of carry-over from therapy. A year later, she reads 100 words, some I have never taught her. She is amazing. The key for us was the visual piece. Any parent of a visual learner - your child will read through sight words. Then after gaining confidence and enjoying reading, they can be taught phonics to decode. I am incorporating another program with my recently purchased Your Kid Can Read videos - which introduces word families and phonics.
I don't see any problem with giving a young child - especially one with special needs - the gift of reading. Children have so much to learn in school..knowing how to read is such an advantage and a gift.

Trevor Cairney said...

As regular readers of this blog know I don't normally post comments if they seem to be self-promotional or in support of a product. However, I always try to post helpful comments even if anonymous.

As I've said in my various comments on this post (and in my second post on YBCR), the program may well be helpful for older children, and for those with learning difficulties. This is not to suggest that the program is a first choice for such uses, but it might help.

In the comment above we can see how one parent of a 5 year old child with Downes Syndrome has found the program helpful. This doesn't surprise me, because we've known for decades that Downes Syndrome children can learn to read successfully and in many cases strong use of whole word strategies has proven helpful. Clearly this child has been helped by the repetitive nature of the program and perhaps the varied use of TV as a stimulus.

It's also worth noting that the child has been immersed in a rich language environment as well; something that I stress continually on this blog.

Thanks to our anonymous Mum (Mom) who has shared this comment.

And best wishes with your daughter's continued reading.

Trevor

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out a few things that could possibly be a little enlightening on this subject. My husband and I were discussing this program with his parents after having the commercial come on for the 1,000th time that day. We voiced our opinions on the subject and I noted that my main concerns were 1) that this just seems to cater to those that view childrearing as a contest with other parents and their children and, 2) that this is more of a word memorization technique rather than a phonetic approach. My mother-in-law pointed out the fact that she learned through word memorization and while she is an avid reader and reads quite well, she feels like she missed out on proper education. She is unable to figure out the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of words that she does not know. Also, she is unable to grasp foreign languages. I certainly feel that my reading education (the phonetic approach) is the reason that I am a fantastic spellers of words (even those that I don't know), I can figure out the proper pronunciation of most any word, I can assess the meaning of words without looking them up, and I pick up foreign languages incredibly well - even in adulthood. While my mother-in-law is definitely an intelligent person, she clearly lacks in the language department. I have seen this happen to others who learned through word memorization. While it's an effective approach to reach the end result of reading any and everything in the English language, it doesn't provide the little nuances of language learning. I liken it to the way I see many people teach foreign language words. For example, teaching someone that the word for "playing" in Spanish is "jugando". That's all fine and dandy, but you aren't going to learn the proper way to conjugate or even KNOW that the word "jugando" is a conjugation of "jugar". And it certainly won't teach the learner the proper way to use "jugando". You absolutely must teach the individual rules of language before you can overstep the rules to reinforce the basic languages skills already learned.

With my other concern, I feel it's an issue that is quite big in the US with parents. It's all about "my kid is more advanced, smarter, bigger, etc. than yours". Parents want to start their children on solids and turn their carseats to forward-facing as early as possible to "prove" that their children are more advanced. It's not a matter of being more advanced. Rather, it's a matter of the child being forced to the "next stage" before they are ready. I believe it does nothing but take away from the child in a life period that is so incredibly important.

I did not learn to read until I was 5. I am an incredibly bright person who loves to learn. I've never met a person that wasn't impressed by my intelligence without me having to "prove" myself by telling everyone how great I am or quoting obscure poetry. I have worked as an educator, am an avid reader, and am fluent in Spanish from both formal training as well as cultural immersion. My son, who will turn two at the end of the month, is not involved in any formal education. He can count to 10, knows his alphabet, recalls songs he's heard only once, and is incredibly social. I don't feel any need to rush his development and am confident in his intelligence. I think parents need to slow down and not rush their children into being competitive monsters who constantly have to one-up each other. In the end, that is a personality trait that will not bode well in social situations and will do the opposite of teaching them the wonderful virtue of empathy.

That is just my "two cents".

A. said...

@Anonymous' "two cents": do you actually know anyone who has used the program? If not, then on what basis do you rest your claim that people who use it are merely competitive? I would suggest that you are projecting; you're very concerned about what other people are doing, and you want to instruct them about how best to raise their children. What they do seems to make you uncomfortable. Well, I have a different attitude. I agree that it's perfectly OK for people to start kids reading whenever they want to (as long as it's not too late). I'm sure you're just as brilliant as you claim to be (at least, that's plausible to me). I myself started reading when I was 5 (I think).

We have used YBCR and had good results with it. I don't think I'm especially competitive. I'm glad my son is reading, but he's lagging in some other skills and roughly on target on many. That's OK with me; that's how all people are, including kids.

The trouble with YBCR and similar early reading and early learning programs is that they, and the results they come up with, cause cognitive dissonance. What? they say. Children reading before the age of 3? That's not possible. Oh, it is possible? Well, it's not really reading. Oh, you mean they can be taught phonics before that age as well? (My boy reading the First Amendment phonetically at age 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-T3xlLIQ4k) Well, it's "developmentally appropriate." This is code, however, for "I think it's too early." Sez you.

What if the main reasons we think that the "developmentally appropriate" age to teach reading is 4-6 are that (1) we associate reading with school, so kids who start before school are "starting early," which puts them at an "unfair advantage" over others; and (2) we haven't known the proper techniques actually to do it?

I'm writing a mammoth essay which will explain how we did it and why it's OK. It will include detailed replies to Trevor Cairney's very interesting and helpful essays. Trevor has certainly done a great service in carefully articulating, as no one else has, a mainstream reaction to programs like YBCR.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for your comments Anonymous 1 & 2. I don't post many anonymous comments often, but I will at times if they have something to say and it isn't just self-promotion. I look forward to reading the article referred to in the second anonymous comment. I will of course do my own review of it once it is published.

Trevor

happy mom said...

The program is not expensive. Watching TV for 30 minutes to an hour a day is not such a big deal. And it's ok even if I don't see the result as it promises. So it's not really about the money or time or my ambition on my child that give me uncomfortable feelings about this program. I rather think it involves more of fundamentals. Why can't we wait till our babies are 'ready' for the written form of communication? Why do we have to give them an impression that they always have to be more advanced and do things before their peer start doing? The kind of impatience and anxiety that is behind the thoughts of the parents as they buy such a program, is biggest damage on their babies, in my opinion. I first saw their informacial at the hospital after I delivered my second baby, and at that vulnerable stage it sounded pretty convincing. But as I was coming back to more senses over next several months, I realized this is really not the way I want to introduce the joy of reading to my baby. Besides, my first child did not read until age 5, and at age 9 he is at 99th percentile of reading level. Not only that I'm more proud and thankful because he is very secure child who knows how to put himself in someone else's shoes.

Anonymous said...

A very helpful post. I was interested with the said learning tool because I had 20 months old girl. Im a bit worried because she wasnt able to speak a word clearly, just mama and papa. I already ask her pediatrician and told us not to bother. And so, as I watched it in a television I thought this might be the answer. But of course, as a wise buyer I want to make sure that this would be a trash. I really appreciate your effort and time to post this review of yours. I thought also that this is not actually teaching how to read but more on familiarization of what the baby sees in thier kit. But since I am not an educator, my option is to trust the program which I know was well studied and tested of the group of professionals.
Thank you very much! Keep on helping...God bless!

kepa said...

Wow! What a great discussion. The main thing(theme) I see that is missing is balance. Every person that has replied to this blog has either tried to debunk the opinion of the blogger or agreed with him\her trying to make either right or wrong when there is neither. I truly believe that it is the difference in opinion that makes life, indeed parenthood such an exciting endeavour. Excuse me as I am from New Zealand, heveowr I do bveile taht pploe (little ones included)read in all sorts of manner. It's going to be tough to teach anyone if you do not understand how that person learns. Parenting in my opinion is about teaching our children that it is okay to make mistakes and be wrong. How do you know if you are right if you don't know what is wrong?
Even if this program is not the program for you, you will have learned something more than if you did not try at all. "I guatantee you will miss 100% of the shots you don't shoot". And the only thing you are missing out on is the chance for you child to learn a different way of learning. And to totally disregard anything just because you think it is not worth it is, well I'm sure you will find me the perfect phrase.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Kepa,

I don't quite follow all of your arguments but I agree that some of the comments on this post do take extreme positions. I also agree that there are many ways to teach literacy and that parents should try varied approaches. Having said this, parents do need to make wise decisions, it isn't appropriate simply to try everything in the hope that something works. Raising kids is not like shooting hoops. If you miss a goal you simply miss a goal. If you make wrong decisions with your kids your kids can be hurt and messed up by your bad parenting. There is far too much evidence of parents who make wrong decisions with the result that their children suffer. So in short, I don't accept your philosophy for child rearing, but thank you for contributing to the debate.

Trevor

Larry said...

Dr. Cairney, finally I can "come out" as the "Larry" above. I learned quite a bit from your blog posts and the subsequent discussion, and both posts are discussed in a new book-length essay, which I have online here: http://www.larrysanger.org/reading.html Thanks for your patience and help getting your views stated at least closer to what they really are. Also, you can see the latest video of my son (who used YBCR among other tools) here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIu8BGFqMm4

Larry said...

P.S. I was also "A." in a few comments as well.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Larry,

Glad to see your epistle out and available to be read. When I have time I will read it and review it here - it will be YBCR 3!

Regards,

Trevor

Anonymous said...

"your baby can read" is an awful purchase. while my son was interested in the dvd at a younger age (6 or so mths+), when he reached 14+ mths or so, he became completely bored with all of the dvds. i stopped using them all together and even months later when i would try to put them on again, he would refuse to watch them. my son, at 2, recognizes almost all 26 letters (with the exception of being exhausted and/or just being difficult :) he can recite his abcs and can count to 15 and is very verbal (i have a masters in early childhood) and can assess that he is communicating at or beyond his level. this program, however, has done nothing to enhance or stimulate this growth. in my opinion, it is a scam. if you choose, as i have, to spend hundreds of dollars on this program, please be advised that your child, in fact, will read at some point, but indeed not be benefited by this program. your child will read when they are good and ready, at their own pace :)i give the program a thumbs down.

p.s. the costumer care service is just as awful. horrible, terrible, awful!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Emma Hartnell-Baker said...

I have written a review of this product - that can be seen on our new free facebook page- facebook.com/ReadAustralia
I do hope you will allow your blog readers to read it. Or allow me to post the review here for their interest. I have put forward the reasons why most literacy specialists (without a finamcial interest in the product) would never endorse it.

Emma Hartnell-Baker
Director - Read Australia™

Emma Hartnell-Baker said...

This product is now (finally) under review by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising.
See a related article here

http://www.facebook.com/notes/read-australia/the-your-baby-can-read-program-why-this-product-is-not-recommended-by-read-austr/162292877165919#!/notes/read-australia/your-baby-can-read-product-now-being-investigated-for-false-advertising/166133856781821

Bottom line is that 'babies' can't read. At best the program should be called 'your toddler can memorise the shapes of words'
Emma
Director- Read Australia™

SAM said...

I trained a pre-school/kindy teacher so feel strongly about the benefits of play & encouraging kids to be kids. However, I am now a stay-at-home-mother of 3 (4yrs, 2yrs & 1yr.) I am looking in the value of YBCR and whether it can be used in MODERATION to aid children's development, communication skills. I in NO way wish to replace fun, imaginative, creative, child led play by sitting my kids in front to the TV for hours or asking them 'to perform on cue'.... Do people/experts feel there is room for both form of learning?
SAM

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Sam,

I can't see the point really. With your knowledge and experience as a preschool teacher surely you could offer some additional help with sight words and letter-sound correspondence to supplement the other things you do. I'll post on this in more detail in the next day or so.

Trevor

Anonymous said...

I am a primary special education teacher, and I have used "Your Baby Can Read" program on my daughter. I would not have continued using this program if I found my daughter to have not enjoyed the process. It has been my experience that my daughter really enjoyed the process. In fact, I have found she receives even more one-on-one social interactions with adults (e.g., my dad, my husband, myself, etc.) because of this program, since there are more opportunities now to talk to her about something that she can make meaningful connections with (e.g., the books have amazing visuals that go along with the words). I have found reading the words with her is no different than reading a book to her - except there are less words and better pictures to go along with the words.

The way I see it is that this program is a good learning tool. Also, I feel this program is not overly structured at all!!! It is a fun, interactive program that my daughter enjoys doing!! She in fact, seems to enjoy books even more because of the program. That is not to say she wouldn't eventually have enjoyed reading books later in life, but what's wrong with her learning to enjoy books now as a toddler? I still sing nursery rhymes to her, read other types of books with her, and have her play with other kids...this program is simply another fun activity to do with her!

It has also been my experience as a school teacher that kids who are early readers continue to be great readers when they are in school, since they are confident in their abilities. I have not met a child yet who were early readers start to regress in their learning because they were early readers. Hence, what harm is there in having a child be able to recognize sight words at an early age when they are enjoying the process of learning the words?

I agree this program won't develop a child's phonemic awareness, but it will help them learn sight words through an enjoyable process (which is an important aspect to learning to read as well as developing phonemic awareness).

The bottom line - I see no harm in doing this program with your baby as long as they are enjoying do it! If you are cramming it down a child's throat, and he/she clearly doesn't like doing it - don't do it!! Every child is unique and some will like this program and some won't. You as their parent will be able to make that decision.

Your Baby Can Read has been a great learning tool to use on my daughter. She is a happy toddler, who squeals with delight when we read the books together, and when she recognizes words and starts to perform actions to show her understanding of a word!

Jai T said...

I am teaching a 3yr old that utilized the YBCR program. From what I've observed, his memory is excellent, but he lacks creativity. Perhaps it is just his individual style, but I could see this being a result of the program. I think if someone is going to use it, they need to incorporate more than 1 technique. Not just sight words/memorization.

Anonymous said...

I am an Early Childhood Teacher from New Zealand and have worked extensively in transition to school programmes and initiatives based on the New Zealand Early Childhood curriculum. Seeing children as young as 12 months engaging in formal learning makes me feel sick. The fact is that this kind of learning is very 'old school' and based on teaching methods that are frankly outdated. It teaches children to be what I term Passive Learners - that is they are basically just receiving information and storing it away in their amazing brains to be recalled another time. In my experience the children who transition into school easily and later do well in the classroom are not the children who have memorized the Alphabet and can write their name etc - they are in fact the children who have been taught to be Active Learners; children who are active participants in their own learning. They haven't been crammed full of information, they have instead been given the tools and resources to explore the world around them; taking responsibility for their own development and setting themselves up to be life-long learners. It's called Inquiry Learning and the children who can engage in this are at a much greater advantage than those who have great recall. At the rate technology is advancing it would be fair to say that we don't really know what kind of world we are preparing our children for and we therefore don't know what kind of knowledge they are going to need. And that's why the concept of life-long learning is so important; if they can be Active Learners they have the ability to take initiative, adapt and think outside the box and these are important tools to success.

I would ask the parents who use this programme with their children - whose need are you fulfilling? Are you telling me your 12 month old child really wants to learn how to read? Children of today are prone to greater stress and pressure and have higher Cortisone levels than any other generation before them. This is not a healthy start to life and 'hot housing' your child will only place greater expectations on them. What happened to the good old days when kids could just be kids and explore the world around them in their own time and their own way?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your research and what you have done to prove what you wanted to know. My son started using the program at 18 months and he is now 32 months. He loves the DVD's and the songs that they sing. He has learned many of the songs from the DVD's and dances and sings to them. He is able to recognize and memorize almost all the notecards. I am studying to be an Elementary School teacher and I have learned that any engaging activity is important for every child. As I do not drill this on him he asks for it, and we do the notecards whenever he is eating, and he just loves it! If you make this program a fun activity it can be very useful and helpful for any child. As Dr. Titzer's states that a child from 0-5 brains develops 90% why not try and introduce simple methods of learning as anything is beneficial to such a young absorbant mind.

Trevor Cairney said...

Please note that I continue to allow comments on this topic as I believe that the post and the various responses are of value to parents considering YBCR. However, as a rule I don't post anonymous comments that are rude and poorly argued, or that seem simply to be an attempt to promote a product. If they add value to the discussion I sometimes allow them. The last comment was borderline in my view, but I allowed it to ensure some balance in the argument as I'd just allowed a comment arguing against YBCR. Bottom line is that if you'd like your comments to be published please use an identity.