Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Your Baby Can Read - Part 2

Readers of this blog may recall that I provided a brief review of 'Your Baby Can Read' (YBCR) in July last year (here). YBCR is a successful reading program designed for toddlers. My first post created a lot of interest with over 10,000 viewings and many comments. It had never been my intention to offer an extensive review of the program; in fact, I wrote it in response to a simple reader's question, “Is it a good idea?” However, the many comments on the post suggest that there is strong interest in the program and varied views on its usefulness. I have written this post as a follow up to the previous discussion. I apologise in advance that it is VERY long as a blog post but hopefully some will find it helpful in full and others can skim.

1. A recap of the last post

I indicated in my last post that YBCR is primarily a word recognition program designed for children as young as 12 months. It aims to teach children to recognise words by ‘sight’ (instant word recognition), with the words being taught using a variety of stimulus materials including DVDs and word and picture cards. As with any sight word program, the child is taught to use 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. The program developer suggests that YBCR also seeks to develop incidentally some phonic skills as a by-product of the repetition of sight words, but the program does not systematically teach phonics.

I expressed three concerns with the program. Some of the readers of the post expressed other views in their comments that do not necessarily reflect my own views, you should read their comments as their own, not mine. I shall recap my three original key points:
  • First, 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. As I outline in a previous post (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 to comprehend, interpret, use, appreciate and critique written texts. The program is focussed on one strategy for instant word recognition. While some of the supporters of the program (as seen in their comments on my last post) claim that it teaches children incidentally about sound-symbol relationships, the program does not teach phonics and claims that it does help such skills are not backed by research.
  • Second, if you introduce this program at ages as young as 12 months (as suggested by Dr Titzer) you are essentially introducing the child to formal instruction 3-4 years before what has traditionally been the practice. While Dr Titzer suggests that an early introduction to written language in the form of his program will accelerate learning, he does not provide any evidence to support the claim. I pointed out that the country that has some of the best literacy results in the OECD is Finland, a country where just 9 years of school education is compulsory and where it doesn’t start till age 7!
  • Third, 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 asked parents to consider what they would stop doing while using the program.
In addition to my own comments, a number of readers of my first post also offered their own additional points. There were many comments mostly based heavily upon personal experiences of one kind or another. I tried within the limits of the space one has in a blog comment to respond to the various issues one by one. Some suggested that I am opposed to early stimulation of literacy; this is not the case. What is at issue here is the nature of this early stimulation and whether some types of early accelerated learning might be harmful. At the outset let me say there is limited evidence in either direction in relation to children of this age. My own view is that I would not begin formal instruction too early based on wider research on literacy, learning and development. Not all readers of the blog agree. In fact, embedded within a number of challenges to my first post were questions about the value of accelerated learning and the suggestion that I should comment further on this issue. A number of the comments made by readers of the first post have led me to write this second post. Please note that I am not writing this post for a research journal so it is not meant to be comprehensive in nature, nor is it referenced like a research paper. Rather it represents a synthesis of the major trends and outcomes of research in this area.

2. What we know about the benefits and risks of acceleration of children's learning

a) Generic research on the acceleration of the gifted

Acceleration is the practice of speeding the progress of children through school grades and/or providing them with programs, activities or learning experiences typically experienced by older children. Acceleration can take many forms including early school entry, grade skipping, introducing children to academic skills such as reading much earlier than usual etc. In effect, using 'Your Baby Can Read' with your child at age 12 months is an example of acceleration. Most of the research on acceleration has been conducted with children aged 6 years and above and relates mostly to institutionalised education. Research on the acceleration of gifted children is generally accepted to be harmless for most children when the child is carefully selected and appropriately taught. The evidence (in general) also suggests that there are benefits for gifted children when the practice is adopted and some negative impacts when bright children are left in ungraded and unstimulating classes. Terman’s (1925) earliest study pointed in this direction and others have achieved similar broad findings, for example Kulik and Kulik (1982, 1992), Grose (1993), and Rogers (2004). However, questions still remain in applying this type of generic support for acceleration to approaches to the education of older children in formal settings, to a program like 'Your Baby Can Read' designed for very young children. Why, you ask? Here are a few reasons.

First, the studies cover so many different versions of acceleration (e.g. grade skipping, more advanced work, early school entry etc), that assuming a general effect for a program like YBCR may not be appropriate for your child. Second, research looks for trend data, uses mean scores, and general patterns. This 'smooths' the effects so that the varied ways in which examples of acceleration impact on individual children are masked. For example, in one pro-acceleration study at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth conducted in 1994, it was found that while 95% of the 175 participants perceived positive consequences of acceleration, almost 50% perceived some negative consequences and 2% reported only negative impacts. Neihart (2007), who supports acceleration, when examining socio-affective effects makes this point, reminding us that in spite of benefits from acceleration, "some accelerated gifted children do exhibit problems with conduct or mood." As well, she reminds us that there are documented cases of individual accelerated children having adjustment problems, and hence we cannot conclude that all gifted children should experience acceleration or enter kindergarten early. However, she suggests that the conclusion that academic acceleration will cause social or emotional harm to gifted children is not supported by research in relation to grade skipping, early admission to kindergarten or school “…we cannot make similar claims for other accelerative options, because they are not as well researched”. The main point to be made here is that parents need to make choices about acceleration based on their individual child and not assume that the benefits are uniform and that negative impacts don’t occur.

Second, many of the studies rely on qualitative research with less than rigorous methodology (Note: I'm not suggesting that qualitative research is generally non-rigorous). This is particularly the case in relation to emotional and social development, but is also the case (to a lesser extent) for academic development of young children. The research generally doesn’t control for pre-existing differences between subjects and often uses data in the form of student perceptions rather than measured psychological changes or behaviour. Most of this research is also descriptive and correlational and often participation is voluntary rather than random, making comparability more problematic. The same can be said for academic effects for young children.

Third, how studies define academic and social/emotional development varies greatly making comparisons between studies more difficult. This is particularly the case with the muddy term social and emotional development where studies use a variety of indicators (e.g. antisocial behaviour, leadership ability, self concept, peer relations, absence or presence of psychological problems variously described) and so on.

Fourth, in relation to assessing the impact of a program like YBCR, and in fact any home-based intervention, it is virtually impossible to control for variability in relation to approach, frequency and conditions. This limits our ability to make judgements about the likely impact of such programs for all children.

Fifth, the evidence in relation to the age at which formal instruction begins for literacy does not support the idea that starting early gives a long lasting positive benefit for children.

b) What developmental psychologists have to say?

While maturational theories have been critiqued at length in recent decades we cannot ignore the work of psychologists like Piaget whose work has been so influential in early childhood education. Piaget’s work and in particular, his notions of stages of development, have been badly interpreted at times. For example, we should reject the common assumption that stages of cognitive development are relatively fixed, that they unfold in a linear and automatic way, and that specific stages should be reached before children are ready for specific cognitive tasks like reading. Piaget never wrote this and in fact stressed that development involved an interaction between the child and their social and physical world. Margaret Donaldson provided one of the strongest critiques of the notion that developmental stages are fixed (here). Similarly, the application of the work of constructivists like the Russian psychologist Vygotsky (see my related post on scaffolding here and a helpful video here) has helped to underline the fact that development is not fixed. Vygotsky saw a much closer relationship between learning and development and indeed argued that learning affects development. Of course, this doesn't mean that it is appropriate to thrust any learning experience on a child whenever one we feel like it. Development is by definition progressive in all children, some tasks are more complex than others, some skills more abstract than concrete thinking, and language can be literal or metaphorical and so on. We cannot simply assume that children can do anything when we want them to without regard to their pre-existing skills and ability. Furthermore, we cannot assume that pushing our children into new areas of learning before they have important foundational skills won’t have an impact on them.

Piaget’s observations of children are consistent with the experience of parents and teachers, which is why the notion of clear stages became so firmly entrenched. The general observations, in effect, locked some teachers into thinking that this is the way it must be for children. While this view is not justified, we cannot ignore the observations of Piaget that in general terms the young child (up to roughly 2 years) is focused on sensorimotor learning and early language learning. At this time children are trying to learn how to move, use their hands and feet to manipulate objects, make sounds, exploring their world through all the senses and communicate with other people. From age 2 most children grow quickly as language users, learning that symbols can convey meaning and later trying to use symbols to do just this. They also begin to understand the difference between reality and fantasy, and to use objects as tools. From early school age most children begin to understand that they can manipulate symbols, make judgements about concrete or observable phenomena and manipulate them for their own purposes. Learning is still very concrete for the primary age child but an understanding of abstraction develops for most children. By the teenage years the child no longer needs concrete objects to make rational judgements, by this age they are capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.

Teachers and parents need to take care in assigning work to their children that is too difficult for them or inappropriate. The work of Vygotsky has shown that learning occurs best when the activity or task is within what he calls the child’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). Vygotsky demonstrated that children learn not when doing things that are too easy (and repetitive), or when too difficult and frustrating, but when the task is just in advance of their capabilities. The best learning activities for your child are not necessarily those which they can complete alone, but rather, those which are a little in advance of their ability, which with help and support from a more skilled person (typically an adult), they can complete successfully.

c) Research specific to early literacy learning

One of the difficulties that I have with 'Your Baby Can Read' is that it places so much emphasis on sight word recognition, repetitive learning and memorisation. All have a place in learning but their predominant use at such a young age may divert time from other useful activities such as language stimulation, being read quality literature, discovery learning that stimulates problem solving and inquisitiveness. While some of the comments made in relation to my last post suggested that Titzer encourages parents to stimulate decoding skills and to use literature, the fact is that the primary focus of the program is whole word recognition. This approach while relevant and useful should always be used with other approaches such as decoding and phonics and more holistic approaches such as language experience (see my earlier post on it here), and the reading of quality literature to and with them (see my post on this topic as well here).

Some suggested in their comments to my first post that I was reducing this discussion to a debate between whole language and phonics, with my bias being towards phonics. I have been accused at times of stressing holistic approaches but never of being an apologist for phonics-based strategies. The reality is that my own research and writing have always demonstrated a concern for balanced approaches to literacy instruction (see for example my book 'Balancing the Basics'). This was the methodological concern that I was raising in my last post, that is, that YBCR relies predominantly on a relatively limited reading strategy. While whole word recognition can teach children to memorise and recall isolated words, the approach at best is a useful supplement to other strategies.

One of my over-riding concerns with approaches like YBCR is that children at a very young age are being placed under the pressure to learn material using repetitive memorisation traditionally not encountered until years later within the context of formal education. I’m not convinced that the evidence for acceleration at later ages and in typically formal education settings is relevant to children aged 12-24 months at home who have not been professionally identified as gifted nor assessed in relation to their needs as learners. My view as expressed in my last post is one that I still hold, I have concerns about unintended effects of ‘hot-housing’ (i.e. intense study to stimulate a child's mind) by parents at home with limited training and knowledge of language development and learning.

This is not a new view; in fact David Elkind devoted a whole book to the subject in the 1980s, ‘The Hurried Child’ (1981) in which he warned against the tendency for some parents to want to accelerate their children’s progress prematurely. Elkind (1986), Sigel (1987) and Minuchin (1987) are amongst those who have stressed that children need time and appropriate learning strategies to develop normally. Elkind also warned against the temptation to pressure children with simplified learning tasks at a very young age which inevitably end up relying on lower-level cognitive processes such as memorisation, repetition and simple word and sound recognition that could ultimately be at the expense of activities with greater richness and complexity.

4. Summing up

This has been a very long post but I want to stress just a few points in summing up. Parents who want to give their children a head start in life are using 'Your Baby Can Read'. This is a good motivation, but being well motivated does not equal being right. I have argued over two posts now that I have significant doubts about the wisdom of introducing children to a sight word program like YBCR at the age of 12-18 months, this does not mean that I don't see value in what it is trying to do for older children. There is little evidence to support the long term benefits of the program being used at such a young age, nor has there been sufficient attention to research that could discount any potential negative effects. This research should be done before parents can confidently use YBCR with total confidence. While there is evidence to support the benefits of acceleration for older children when learning in institutional settings, we should not assume based on this evidence that the research offers support for the use of YBCR.

UPDATE (14th June 2011): 
I have done a third post on YBCR HERE

Related links

While I didn't comment on Glenn and Janet Doman's work, most of my comments about 'Your Baby Can Read' could also be made about the materials and adaptations based on their book (here). Here's one example (click here).
One view on the problems with hot-housing (click here).

Readers of this post might also find the following posts of interest:
Teacher might find 'Scaffolding in action' of some use (click here)

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)


Dr. Patricia Porter said...

Thank you Dr Cairney for a wonderful post about parents helping children learn to read. I would like to add a little story about a situation and I came across last week in the hope that it will add a little more to this discussion.

While I was shopping, the assistant asks me about the kind of work that I did. When I told her that I worked with parents helping them help their children learn she became quite interested and told me about the system she was using with a 14-month-old son. It quickly became obvious that she was using a program YBCR. However she had some concerns about what she was doing. She explained to me that she did not think some of the animals that were shown in the program had any relevance for her son. She was also concerned about the amount of time she needed to spend helping her son go through the program. She wondered if she was doing the right thing and asked me for advice.

I told her that I had concerns when parents tried to be teachers. I believe that parents have a very special role to play in helping their children learn. My concern was that if she was spending a lot of time using this program with her son she might not be spending enough time helping her son learn in the way that only a parent can.

This mud seemed pleased to understand that her son would learn to read whether she used this program or not.

This mother obviously felt under a lot of pressure to use this program to help her child lead to read and I wonder how many other mothers are in a similar situation.

I hope that parents remember that they have a special role to play in helping children learn and that this role is possibly more important than that of a teacher and is different from a teachers role.

as a retired teacher I would much rather see parents helping their children learn in this special way that only parents can provide and to leave the more formal teaching aspect to the teachers in the classroom. In this way children get the best of learning opportunities at home and at school.

Unknown said...

I found this article very interesting. And let me declare upfront that I am involved in selling YBCR. However I am not an expert and my only experience and wisdom is based on that of my daughter. So I thought it might be interesting for some to see an individual case study.

As parents we discovered YBCR and didn't know anything about it. We didn't know if it would work but thought it sounded very interesting. It was recommend for children from 3 months as as I daughter was already showing interest in the TV at 3 months (I know it is a sad indictment), we bought and started using YBCR from 4 months.

Our daughter absolutely loved the programme from day 1. We tried to be disciplined and in the first 6 months basically never just put her in front of the TV. We always sat with her and interacted with her and the DVD.

At about 10 months she started to respond to words. I wouldn't say reading but certainly recognising and responding appropriately.

At 19 months of age she was reading over 100 words out loud. Again it would be difficult to say that this was more then memorisation except that we discovered she could recognise when the words were upside down. (video of her at if interested). If we were holding the word upside down she would attempt to read it but fail. But as soon as we gave it to her she would turn it over and read it correctly.

At this point we got involved in the YBCR business.

By the time she was 2.5 she was reading new words by herself. We took as she had learnt enough of the patterns of the language that she had by default learnt the phonics.

My daughter was in daycare 2 days a week from about 2.5years. I mention this because I do think this is a very valuable social experience with educational benefits.

When my daughter started kindergarten she was 1 of 2 kids in the class reading. They put her into year 1 for 1 hour a week for reading. She came first in the class (i don't know how much that means in kindergarten) and also came 2nd in the School District Public Speaking competition.

This year she is in year 1 and her start of year assessment she was reading at a guided reading level of 29 out of 30. Again I don;t know a lot about this but apparently it is pretty impressive.

I consider ourselves to be very typical parents. High school educated, although hopefully smarter then most ;-). Our daughter is a very typical girly girl. Like her parents she watches too much tv and eats too much junk food. However she can read, loves reading, loves school, loves learning and has sooo much self confidence. Obvisouly I am in no position to say with certainty that this is all as a result of YBCR but I certainly think it has only had positive effects on my daughter and our family. Which is why we are now involved in selling it.



Prue said...

I just wish people would get over the idea that their child MUST BE CLEVER, and that the only way to achieve this is through exposing them to environments and programs which will put them ahead of the rest. How about letting our kids learn to play? And perhaps we could let them be bored occasionally!

My son has just started school. He can read a little, and he likes numbers. We have not taught him - he has just picked it up himself. I think the best I can do for him is help him to enjoy his homework, and to support his teacher in the work he is doing to educate my son. I don't have a teaching degree. His teacher actually might have a better idea of how to teach him than me. Imagine that!

O said...

I find myself in almost the same situation as Raoul, except we don't sell it, just promote it, and wanted to share my family's experience.

I don't believe this replaces traditional forms of learning, but as a supplemental tool, I think it's fantastic. I've even found that children's programming on PBS, like WordWorld and Super Why also have similar models that are just meant to give parents another valuable learning tool.

My wife and I sing to our son, read to him and always make time to play (I'm still a big kid at heart) and help him to repeat the things he hears us say, but the YBCR series has really made a great deal of difference in the speed at which he picks things up.

In addition to having learned most of the words in the series, when he repeats something we say, we try to write it down and show him and, most of the time, thats all it takes for him to know it.

He's read the same words off of magazine covers at the grocery store, store-front signs or in the doctor's office, which all have different fonts and colors.

He's also started to learn when to add "ing", "s" and "ed" to new words and in the proper context.

He asks to watch the video almost everyday and at just over two years old, knows every letter of the alphabet, can identify and say all his primary and secondary colors by word or by hue, has started to sing along with several nursery rhymes and can read about 200 words in two languages, no matter where he seems them. We're working on phonics now and, as an example, was able to read "mall" after showing him "tall".

As somewhat of an overachiever, I worry (and am forcefully cautioned by my wife) all the time about putting too much pressure on my son to be the same. But he does all of this willingly and with joy. The beaming look on his face when he discovers a new word or gets something right is something I treasure and, while YBCR can't take all of the credit, I'm more than sure it deserves some.

Rachel Rowell said...

I am not really sure about how I feel about YBCR. I think some of what it teaches can be beneficial, but I also think it has the potential to be over used. While I do think children should be allowed to play and learn from play (on a frequent basis), I don't think, as Prue suggested, that we should just let our kids solely learn from "picking up stuff" pre-school age. I think we need to be activitly teaching them from the time they are born. We are their parents. That is our job too, not just a teacher's job.

HURST FIRST Let's Read! said...

Thank you, Dr. Cairney, for the moderate, unbiased view you are presenting to parents and educators. You have expressed both sides of the debate about teaching babies to read with honesty and clarity. In addition, I have read most of the books you mentioned. They are valuable ones.

I am an educator who also taught my own children to read before entering school, not by using any program, but by playing with words and sounds and creating lots of games for them. Because of that, they were all good students. I taught them as 3 year olds, not babies. I now own a Reading Center where I focus on teaching children to read and on helping struggling children pass their grade levels and attempt to "catch up" with their peers.

I agree with you on so much that you stated. But I do disagree with your (possible) conclusion that parents should focus on other quality learning experiences.

First, reading with 3 year old children can be a way to play with them. It should not be only drill or practice or even sitting still. It can be exciting and playful, too. I, for one, could only "imaginary play" with my children for three or four minutes at a time before I was looking for something else to do. But playing "reading treasure hunt," or "slap that," or "hide and seek" using words or colors or numbers held my interest much longer. They loved it too! And reading play is so much better for kids than television, even quality programs.

Second, educators love to tell parents to read to their children. But as Rachel suggested, a parent can do so much more. Reading to your child really is not enough in the area of literacy. Children should be beginning readers when they enter school. It ensures school success for them.

I see children at the Reading Center who will be held back in Kindergarten because they cannot read well enough to move on to 1st grade. Almost all of the children brought to me are bright children who should NOT be held back. All they need is an individual to help them take their first steps into reading instead of a teacher dealing with a large group. Yes, even fifteen is a large group.

If a parent chooses to be that teaching individual, the child has all the one-on-one time he or she wants with the one person he or she most wants to spend time with, and the one person who will most likely appreciate and enjoy each step of progress made.

In so much of the world now, children spend a great deal of time in daycare settings. That setting is ideal for playful beginning reading. While the director is planning snacks, free play, crafts, and outdoor activities, why not plan reading activities as well? Not reading worksheets, but reading activities, games, and play. And I'm not talking about "a letter a week." That is bare bones, minimal learning. I am talking about 15 minutes of real reading play.

I have created a reading program for children ages 3 to 6 that I use and am marketing to parents, preschools, and day cares, ( It may show up at the top of this comment, but feel free to delete it. I feel I should not name it here because this venue does not seem the right place to sell a program.) I am not familiar with YBCR and am only vaguely familiar with Glen and Janet Doman's work. But I appreciate their efforts to assist parents in this area. Possibly their programs would be good for 2 1/2 year olds?

I predict early learning is the wave of the future. If so, let's do it right, in short and playful segments. One child in our program recently told me, "Reading is my favorite way to play!"

Thank you for providing a forum for this discussion.

Jodi Heaton Hurst

Catherine said...

I have been a preschool teacher for 24 years. Teaching very young children to read is DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE!!! It is wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels. Young children (especially infants and toddlers) should not be 'watching' television. Period. The end. Child development requires interaction in and with the environment. Pictures via the television do NOT provide the proper sensory input required for optimal development.

Your Baby Can Read? So what? What your baby REALLY needs to be doing is holding, touching, feeling, tasting, listening....interacting with the environment. Throw YBCR into the trash (along with Baby Einstein) and let your child bang on some pots and pans with a spoon (or, gasp, their hands). Sing a song. But get rid of this kind of junk. It has no place in raising children to their optimal developmental potential. Why is child development a race? Stupid.

HURST FIRST Let's Read! said...

Catherine, and all,

I have also been an educator for 24 years, many of those years with preschool age children but many also with elementary, middle school and high school ages.

My stand is that that there is room for lots of opinions. Of course, any healthy interactions between parent and child are wonderful. I agree with you. But the world changes as we all know. All change is not bad. And maybe making learning in the form of teaching numbers, letters, words and sentences a part of the quality childhood experience is a good thing. We have television and computers. I do not oppose those who are trying to find ways to appropriately use those tools in the lives of children.

My experience in the schools is that some children struggle to learn to read, and as a result, are held back a year in the early grades. Often that is a soul crushing happening and most often it is not necessary. A bit of appropriate one-on-one learning ahead of time is the miraculous prevention.

Our reading program (which we also use in our preschools) gives ample time to play and learn social and hands on skills. Children also learn to read and to manipulate numbers. 5 year old Colby reads at the first grade level but really excels in every form of art. 4 year old Simon is quite a dancer and gymnast and is turning out to be the leader of our small group. He also reads but at an end of kindergarten level. Ria is only 3 but is very focused. She reads at Simon's level and loves anything math manipulative. Dani reads everything even teenage books and magazines but prefers books with pictures in them. Her favorite thing is reading. 4 year old Lauren and 3 year old Y'Nia are just beginning to read a bit but they love that part of the morning. Playing pretend with the stuffed animals or the kitchen is their favorite activity. And on and on.

We know all of these children are going to be good students. We are giving them the skills that ensure success. Child development should not be a race. I agree again. But as long as we have schools that will decide to hold children back or punish them with bad grades, we must find ways to protect children. And what a fun way to protect them? Play "reading" with them!


Samax said...

(Forgive me everyone... I think I'm the only commenter who isn't an educator!)

My wife and I have a 8 month old daughter. I am a working artist, who keeps our daughter during the day and work out of a home studio at night. It is a dream come true for me.

Anyway, I saw an infomercial for YBCR and came across your blog while trying to gather information about it.

Thanks for writing this.

Bethanne said...

First of all, thank you so much for your educational and candid blog!

I am both an educator and a mother. I have a degree in education, but have chosen to homeschool my children. As such, it is my experience that children are all different and often times learn differently as well. 3 of my kids learned to read before kindergarten, and the 4th one right at the age of 5. It just didn't quite click for him until then. All learned with a combonation of phonics and sight reading. No matter when they actually started, they are currently testing at 2-3 levels higher than their grade level in Language, as well as other subjects.
I now have a 10 month old, and am feeling tremendous pressure from other moms using YBCR. Like most moms, I want to give my child every opportunity to succeed in life,so I checked out YBCR at the library to see it for myself. I can see how it is easy to get excited about the possibilities. However, after doing further research, including some of the resources mentioned in your blog, I have come to the conclusion...if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I will not be giving in to peer pressure :)
My oldest(15) is now in public high school and getting 100+percent in every class and is taking college level English and will be graduating early. All without the use of YBCR.
Not judging those of you using the program, we all want to give our kids the best start possible. But to those of you not using it, rest assured. If you interactively and lovingly educate your children in the ways afore mentioned by other teachers, you will have a bright, well-rounded, well-adjusted child. Isn't that what we all want?

Angela Powell said...

I've been looking for research on YBCR and am so glad i came across this blog. I am a graduate education student and wanted this topic to be what i did my research on but there is not much other research to base it on, so i had to pick something else.
i think it is so silly to start off teaching a baby how to read before they can see (3 months), or walk. There are so many other things parents could be teaching thier children at this age. I also work part time at and educational store where i constantly get customers in looking for this product or things like it.. so much it makes me want to scream! i totally support language and print experiences at early ages for children, but trying to teach children to actually read before 18 months is insane.

mom2nji said...

I have question about using this program in older children.
My son is 8, autistic and severely learning disabled. After 3 years in school he has not mastered a single letter phonetically. He is verbal, but cannot master the letter=sound concept. In order for him to have life skills, I am desperate to find a way for him to recognize words.
Wondering if you think this has a shot of working before I blow $200.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Jenni, thanks for your comment. I answered a question like this on my first post about 'Your Baby Can Read' (and I think a parent also offered their suggestions about using it with an Autistic child - click here). As I said then, I’m not an expert on Autism but I know enough to have a stab at this question. I acknowledged previously 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. As you no doubt 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 YBCR be used with your 8 year-old Autistic child? Maybe. My own instinct would be to try other approaches first like the 'Language Experience Approach' (see my previous post on this topic click here), but you've probably done this. I assume that his teachers have tried whole word strategies in the past. If not then maybe you should try this first. One useful approach for children with learning disabilities is to use a game approach with whole word recognition incorporated (see post on this here) or to use lots of labelling around the home. Once you’ve tried approaches like this then perhaps you could try YBCR. I'd suggest that you give other approaches a try first. You may be able to achieve the same outcomes without spending $200.

I’d love to hear how you get on, and I’d be happy to answer other questions. All the best, Trevor

Anonymous said...

This is a comment in response to Jenni's earlier question about using YBCR with an Autistic child.

I wish you the best in helping your son learn to read. It is always exciting to see a parent who is willing to take action to make sure her child will be a reader! I tried to email this directly to you, but it did not go through so I hope you catch it here on Dr. Cairney's website. The following is my experienced opinion.

I own and direct a reading center where we teach young children to read. I have not specifically taught a fully autistic child, but I have worked with Asberger's Syndrom children with great success and with other children with learning disabilities, many of which were undiagnosed.
Learning phonics is probably the most complicated and difficult way to learn to read. It is the the most abstract way that I know of that we teach children today. I do not use this method for struggling readers.
Trevor suggested Language Experience Learning that has always been, for me, a method to enhance reading rather than actually teach reading. His suggestion of whole word learning is the strategy that I always rely on for struggling readers. It has never failed me. I hope it works with your child as well. Briefly, this is the way I would begin:
1. Start with your child's name and the words "Mom" and "Dad" or whatever you are called. Write them in large print on cards or whole pieces of paper. If he or she already knows those words, move on to step two. If not, play with those words. "Who is this? Is this Mom? Is this (child's name)?" as you are showing the words. Put each of your own words on your heads. Laugh about it. Put them on the chairs you sit on as you look at them and talk about them. Walk to the bedroom and put them on the correct beds. Make faces to show emotions. Hold the word "Mom" up and point to it as you say, "is silly" or "is sad." Once you start playing, you will think of other ways to play with the words. Take as long as you need (in short segments). Two days? A week? More? That's fine.
2. Once three family names are known, you know the reading pathway in your child's brain has been created and you will build on that structure. Add other family names if there are other people in your immediate household or that your child sees often. Again, two or three new words at a time.
3. Now begin on animal names. This is far better than naming objects in your house. Children get quite excited about people and animals; not so excited about "wall, door, chair, etc." Plus, animal names show up in children's books far more than house object words.
4. You will next add some color words. You don't need to teach all of them. These words are a little more abstract than the family and animal words. Do NOT write them in the color of the word. Stay with black print.

Remember, you are playing with these words the whole time you are teaching them. Each session will be from three minutes to fifteen minutes long depending on the attention span of your child. Laugh as much as you can laugh naturally. This is your FUN time with your child. If your child progresses this far and now knows fifteen to twenty words, celebrate! Our experience has been that the less concrete words like "see" and "go" and even "have" can now be introduced slowly. Your child really is reading and is on the way to reading real sentences.
Phonics? Don't worry. Phonics can come later. There is really no hurry. Some children even learn to read well without more than very basic phonics.
Please email me back if you have questions -- I did explain this process quickly after all and may have assumed a step that is confusing to you. I would love to hear from you when your child reads these beginning words so I can show you our method for moving him or her into the less concrete words like "see, go, have, the, can."
Good luck to you! Enjoy!

Jodi Brungardt

TJ's Mom said...

I enjoyed your posts. I use and love this product, I have my baby (starting at 15 months) on an "anti-testing" reading program. Meaning, I never ever ask him to perform, read a word, or respond in any sort of way to my prompting him. I just show him words, and Your Baby Can Read is great for that. Children that age cannot see very well at all, and the large print on the screen is easy for them to actually see (as opposed to most children's books where there in no way they can distinguish 12 pt print).

My personal opinion is that people over-analyze the use of certain products. Granted, the maker of this product has some rather reaching claims, so people are going to react to that. He goes to far in saying that kids deduce phonics, and that they all become brilliant speed readers and skip grades like his daughters. But in the practical lives of the great bulk of the users of this product, is it is a replacement for cartoons, Baby Einstein, music videos, or worse, soap operas. Very very very few homes are completely TV-free during a toddler's waking hours. That is just a fact. Older kids want to watch TV, parents want to watch. No TV for 2 years is just not practical, period. You make the bulk of parents failures before they've even got the kid into preschool. You'd have to convince me that these DVDs are worse than Sesame street, and they just aren't. They aren't great entertainment for adults, trust me, I know, but they are engaging for babies (go figure). They sing the songs, learn the body parts and actions, and point to the tv during the games. I don't see where you can go wrong really. With all the materials you get, it is not at all expensive, although for some reason people are convinced it is overpriced. Yes, they are making a profit, but buying children's books, DVDs, and other educational materials in the same quantities and the same quality is going to cost you this same amount. A Dr. Suess is $10, a DVD $20, it adds up.

Kristina said...

After reading your reviews I found most of you haven't tried the product and are already against it. I myself have been working with my baby on reading since birth. I feel it is an important daily activity for us and an additional time to learn and bond. She is now 2 years old and has a vocabulary of over 250 words. She loves to read and is starting to read some of her books herself. Myself, I love to read and look forward to our time together.

I learned to read both ways phonetically as a child and then whole word reading in Jr. High as part of an experimental reading program. My reading and comprehension jumped significantly. I read an estimated 338 words per minute. It is great but sucks when I burn through one of my favorite authors or books in less time than it takes to watch a movie. I have better than average comprehension and retention levels as well.
Reading is a fundamental part of learning and interacting for our children. I am planning on purchasing YBCR myself since it seems to be a reasonable price for all the items you get and it has a nice learning guide...organized schedule really to help encourage the child's reading development. As for worrying about reading to my child taking up to much time...I think someone with that excuse should reprioritize by getting rid of other useless activities such as adult TV shows, or shaving an hour off adult only time.

Anonymous said...

I think parents are teachers first and then parents. your child learns everything from you from birth and for the rest of their lives. i think Dr. Patricia Porter is wrong about leaving the teaching up to the teachers because during the first years of your childs life you are the sole teacher and then on top of everything teachers dont even teach the children's guided from a book. As a parent you know what your child needs and you dont need a teacher or anyone else to tell you otherwise unless you just want a second opinion but generally the first one is the important one and that's YOURS

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. My daughter is almost 2 yrs old. I have been searching for more info on YBCR for the past 12 months. I was interested in YBCR but I needed more info. I was concerned about any ill effects on her learning process. Thank you for helping make the decision not to get it.
Thanks again, Michelle Mack

Rebecca said...

Thanks so much for this and your previous post on YBCR. I often see the infomercial for this product and must say the claims are tempting. Everyone wants to give their child a head start and everyone wants their child to be "smart". That said, I agree with all of the concerns expressed in this post and have some additional concerns/thoughts on this program.

I am concerned about the use of television with this program. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. They indicate that young children should spend more time in active physical and social play. Also, some studies suggest that early exposure to television is related to higher incidence of ADD and ADHD.

I also feel that babies and young children already have good receptive language skills, that is they can understand what is being said to them and can react based on what is said (e.g. follow a direction like "clap your hands"). YBCR continues to develop the receptive side of language. I think that it may be more valuable to provide a baby or toddler with more expressive language skills - almost everyone has had the joy of a pre-verbal toddler meltdown related to the toddler's frustration with not being able to express his/her wants, needs, or feelings. Babies as young as 9 to 10 months old can be taught to use sign language to make simple requests. I would rather have a toddler who can communicate than a toddler who can sight read.

That said, I do feel there is value to getting an early start on literacy, but I think it should be done in a playful, unstructured way, like Ms. Hurst suggests.

Trevor Cairney said...

I haven't commented for a while so thank you to three Anonymous comments, Jodi, TJ's Mom, Kristina and Rebecca. I don't normally post anonymous comments unless they are worthwhile and don't seem to be self-seeking or rude. Thanks for your comments Rebecca, I also have concerns about the television being a key vehicle for the presentation of this program. I've written about the dangers of television for the young here. Thanks to everyone.



HURST FIRST Let's Read! said...

Dr. Cairney, I LOVE the system you have in place of sending responses on to all those who have commented on your site. It allows those of us involved in the subject and age to stay in the conversation.

I agree with the comment that anonymous made that parents are the first teachers. They are also, most often, the best teachers for their children.

And I understand and agree with everything Rebecca wrote about receptive and expressive language (meaning understanding language versus actually communicating in that language) and about playful learning. Actually, playful and interactive learning of reading between parent and child is one good way to build communication skills.

The reason children must begin reading before they actually go to kindergarten, as I've said before, is that they MUST begin in a one-on-one or one-on-two setting. If the parent does not give his or her child that advantage, the parent is taking a big chance. The parent is gambling with his or her child's reading. There are just too many children in most kindergarten classrooms: not too many for a teacher to manage well and not too many for a good social mix, but too many to ensure every child has a great introduction to reading.

Dr. Cairney, thanks for posting anonymous responses. I often post anonymously by accident because I "send" before I scroll down to put in my info. Hopefully I, and others, understand our topics better than posting on the internet!


Joy said...

Thanks very much for your insightful posts that are both easy to read for those of us not in early child education (I'm in postsecondary education myself) yet researched and thoughtful.

In the U.S. with our public education system basically in crisis and being hit on all sides, there are many reasons why parents are encouraged to accelerate their children and/or take over traditional learning for teachers (not just homeschooling, but pressure coming from teachers and schools). But I just feel that being taught basically by TV so young is just too early and too much. Considering that we have 12 years of compulsory sit-in-a-chair-and-learn-by-reading education in the U.S., I can't help wondering whether I should actually be encouraging totally different experiences. On the other hand, I want my child to love to read. Your posts really helped me sort things out. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It concerns me when I see posts that state that parents have basically no business teaching their children....if that is so...why do teachers insist in our participation outside of the classroom? We are not just parents, we are also educators for our children and many of the things children learn prior to entering school is from us as well as their social interaction. Children learn first from sight words, they don't just enter Kindergarten and BOOM know how to read. Generally by the time they are Kindergarten age they are able to do many things and they have an extremely wide on earth did this happen? Surely not from their parents? That would be bizarre! Shame on those who say parents shouldn't teach their children...and definitely shame on the educators who are teaching our children who say such!

Anonymous said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read that post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thank you to the various people who have commented over the last week or so. I appreciate your helpful contribution Jodi and your positive feedback. Thanks also to Joy (who reminds us of the problems of TV at too young an age) and to the two anonymous people one of whom reminds us that parents are children's first teachers. Thanks, Trevor

deannej21 said...

Thank you for posting this. The information is definitely useful. I do think that education should start at home. We are all well aware of the frustrated teacher who laments over a child who hasn't been taught anything at home. I know that many are hung up on their children being the smartest or the most "clever" as one poster put it, but confidence is an invaluable trait for a child. Perhaps some of us have never sat in a class and been confused, clueless, and embarassed because you don't understand the work. I have nieces and nephews who struggle every day just as my sister did, and my Mom. Like TJ's Mom, I think I'll use the program on an "ant-testing" method. My 17 month old daughter seems to repsond well to the video clips on Youtube. She knows some sign language and I think she'd be excited to learn new words and signs by this method.
Thanks again for putting the effort into such a thought provoking post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dr. Cairney for such an informational post.
My wife and I have been bombarded with the YBCR infomercial lately, and being that we are now first time parents of a beautiful 4 month old girl, we are naturally intrigued by this program.

Suffice to say, I have spent a full work day scouring the web for information on this product. Is it truly all that it appears to be? Will my daughter be ages ahead of her classmates when she finally starts school? And of course, will she really be "reading"?

I have read countless testimonies from parents who have used this product claiming it works like a charm, to their kid was bored with it within 5 minutes. But more interestingly, I have read that the use of the YBCR program can actually cause a child to have a difficult time with readuing once they enter grade school, where the teaching methodology may be based more on Phonics. The blogger in this instance claims that the child may be totally confused and essentially become disinterested in learning if they begin to struggle after being told how well they can read for so long.

As I am not an educator of any sort, do you know if there is any fact to this claim?

Thanks, NK.

Trevor Cairney said...

Many thanks for your personal reflections Deidra. Thanks also for your questions NK. There are lots of emotional and unsubstantiated claims about acceleration and learning on the web. There is no doubt that some very young children can be trained to 'read' and that once they acquire some foundational skills (e.g. word recognition skills) that this can be applied later. But I question whether in the long-term this is best for your child. The impacts in either direction are likely to be minor for many children. But they could be greater for some and could have unintended consequences. However, every child is different and ultimately you need to make wise choices about what is best for your little girl. My view based on my experience as a researcher, teacher, father and grandfather is that we can push children too fast and that we should avoid highly structured learning at a young age. Your child needs to be stimulated from birth to learn language and to learn about their world. I don't believe that the best way to do this in the first two years of life is through a program like YBCR. My various posts on this blog should indicate why. Best wishes for your role as a parent. Trevor

mom2jjd said...

WOW! What a huge amount of information! I have now read through all of both blogs and comments sections about this product, and, despite being tempted to purchase YBCR for my 19-month-old, my head keeps returning to the radio commercials I hear about the product several times per day where the mother of three "advanced" readers is asked "is it a lot of hard work?" and she responds "no, I just use the video and they are all readers." So basically, I can just plop my kid in front of a video twice per day and he will become the genius he was otherwise not meant to be? COOL!!!

Um, no thanks. I have two "accelerated" readers in elementary school already who learned the old-fashioned way; through the hard work and nurturing of their parents AND their teachers.

Thank you, Dr. Cairney, for the valuable information and the encouragement to keep playing with and structuring my child's time to unlock his OWN potential.

Trevor Cairney said...

Dear Mom2,

So glad you found the posts helpful. I'm even more impressed that you read both posts PLUS the comments! Sounds like you have a great grasp on parenting.

Best wishes, Trevor

Alexander Abel said...

I have just read both blogs and all subsequent comments. And much like a commentor on the first blog I am graced with a genius level intellect. Currently studying psychology (specifically on how the brain works and how we learn) so of course this entire subject is very interesting to me. My parents played supportive roles with teachers leading the way in my development. No special techniques. My parents instilled in me a thirst for information. When I asked why something was the way it was my father would explain things to me and why. This was the beginning of me being able to build a complex understanding of abstract ideas. It caused me to want to know why but more importantly I wanted to do it on my own. In plain words I was taught to want to learn.

I have looked closely at this product and I believe that many are losing sight (mostly on the first blog) that this is not a discussion on wether or not the product works (watch the videos). We know the product works. The question is (for most readers) Is this product really worth 200 bones. That depends on the amount of effort you are willing to put into your child. This video/flash card package does not present any revolutionary teaching methods. It does not guarantee adulthood success. All it provides you with is an all in one package for one style of teaching which is convenient but not everything you will need. Not amazing in any other way than good marketing. Your baby can read wether you buy this or not. You just have to teach them. And this brings up Trevor's main argument... Is it in fact a good idea to teach your child to read as early as 12-24 months old. Unless your child is born with some type of autism then there is a pretty good chance that you will have no problem teaching them at 4 years old. I didn't learn to read until I went to kindergarden. In public school no less. I went there with nothing but a lunch in a brown bag and a thirst for knowledge. In my studies and even throughout these two blogs and numerous comments there is one idea that everyone seems to agree on: every child is different. What works for one could be the down fall of another. This is where we as parents need to find that happy medium between being a teacher and a parent. Anonymous said "i think Dr. Patricia Porter is wrong about leaving the teaching up to the teachers." This is like saying the government is wrong for leaving the defense of our country up to the military. You can go and read his explanation but it won't matter. It doesn't make sense even with his justification. This is clearly an example of someone being able to read but not able to comprehend the words they are "barking at the screen" (sorry, I know that was digging deep but it had to be said) Dr Porter is not telling people not to teach their children (which is clearly the way that it was inferred) she is corroberating with Trevor in the idea that children that are too young and have not reached the correct developmental stages should probably not be taught with this technique because it could be damaging rather than helpful. Instead that as a parent you should be teaching your child the life lessons more specifically the difference between right and wrong, nurturing a natural inquisitiveness and generally teaching them how to be people. As it turns out these will be much more important lessons to learn than how to read the dollar menu at McDonalds. My inferrence of what Dr Porter is saying is that parents need to prioritize the development of their children. What's more important, reading the fourth book in the Twilight series or forming social relationships and learning how to work as a team with others? As a parent you should be able to answer that question and when commenting on a blog about someone's idea and your justification is "because I said so" then you probably shouldn't tell someone with a doctorate that they are wrong.

HURST FIRST Let's Read! said...

To Alexander Abel:
I appreciate your wisdom and your clear ability to communicate. My only disagreement with your post is that even though some children have great parents who do all the right things they can think of with those same children, they are still held back in Kindergarten or first grade because they do not "catch on" to reading. As an educator I've seen it happen too often. Most of the children held back are normal kids, plenty mature enough to stay with their age group. Holding back is devastating to parents and kids.
As long as schools do not come up with a better plan of action, parents MUST take control.
I, like you, moved right into a public kindergarten and not only learned to read, but learned to love to read. And I want that for every child. I am not a great supporter of YBCR, but I am a great proponent of parents introducing reading to their children before they start school. We do that in our classes at Hurst Reading Center, and through Hurst First LET'S Read Program for parents and preschools. And it's fun. Kids love it!
I encourage all day cares and preschools to do the same.
Teaching children early, in a small group setting or a one-on-one setting, is a guarantee for reading success in school. And as we all know, reading success means school success whether the child is very active, very passive, noisy, shy, pushy, disorganized, etc. etc. etc. Every parent should find a way to guarantee their child this fundamental advantage before they send them off to school.
If you are not working in the schools yet, just wait. It will break your heart to see the pain of what could so easily be avoided.

Jodi Heaton Hurst

Alexander Abel said...

To Hurst:
I don't think there is really an arguement there. Like Trevor and yourself I am in full agreement that parents must take great efforts into developing their learning capabilities but there is no reason that anyone can say that any singular teaching technique is going to be the magical method that will propel our children into a new evolution of intelectual insight. Even if there was a way there is still a matter of ethics that would beg to question wether or not we should put our children through that hell. What type of developmental processes would have to be skipped in order to advance our children? And the fact that anyone is even considering taking the chance in their child losing out on these ever so important milestones in their lives is under the guise of "what is best for them." People want their kids to be better than other kids, which is understanding but one of Trevor's points is that we are still unsure what effects this will have in the future. Take for instance your program, it is designed for children that are young but well beyond the toddler years. This program probably is very successful because it is designed for children of an age that have he capability and the desire to learn. YBCR is a program for children that don't have the ability to even walk away or provide feedback or even display their emotions or thoughts. There are developments that they still have yet to display before taking more drastic efforts to teaching your kid to read. Again don't misconstrue my words. Not saying don't teach, you can actually read my words and keep it at a literal translation into your mind, I'm saying to mentor and have a meaningful relationship. Parents put so much pressure on their kids now that they lose out on their opportunity to build meaningful and loving relationships with their children. How many students end up making more of an emotional connection with teachers than with their parents? More than enough. There is so much to say about his topic that 4,096 charactors is not enough to get a complete thought out. You as an educator should agree that this is happening. It's not about wether or not parents are trying, we know for the most part we all are because we want our children to excell. The thought we need to take time out to really determine what the losses and gains ardor trying to force something on our children at too young of an age. You pointed out that even with some parents best effort some kids are still passed up by their peers. That's the point. Some children will be better than others no matter what you do. The children will either be capable of learning quickly or they won't but at some point if there is no disability they will all get to the same end. Every brain is different and sometimes if you try to force something it might have negative effects. This just needs to be taken into consideration. If you have a hole that is three inches in diameter and you try to put an object through that hole that is three an a half inches in diameter there is a potential to damage either the hole or the object. You can't expect every hole to stretch to compensate the object, some may have that capability but some won't stretch, they will break. Understand this is a direct metaphor for the flow of knowledge and the size of the hole is the childs natural ability level. There is no problem matching the size but when you over do it it can have negative effects and I am now willing to take any chances, I refuse to gamble with my son.

Alexander Abel said...

Typo corrections:
ardor = are for
now willing to gamble = not willing to gamble

that last last post was done on my iPhone. It tries to autotype. Just like the point of this topic sometimes something that is good can be a bad thing too.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Alexander & Jodi,

So glad to see you both contributing to the discussion. I think you comments are very helpful Alexander, thank you for taking the time to understand what I was saying (and not saying) and for adding your own perspective on the topic.

Thanks also Jodi for your contribution which as usual is excellent. I agree with most of what you say but I'd want to add a couple of qualifiers. For example, your comment that "Teaching children early, in a small group setting or a one-on-one setting, is a guarantee for reading success in school." I don't think that is a 'guarantee', and I wouldn't lump these two options together, there is no substitute for one-to-one interaction between a child and an adult (preferably a parent). Everything else is second best in the preschool years, especially under 2 years. However, I do agree that small group and excellent preschool education is the best chance that some children have for school success given the different family situations that children face.

I'm also not too sure that many of the children held back by parents are 'normal' children. This isn't my experience in Australia. The default is that most parents want their children to go to school, hence some children with learning difficulties, language delays and emotional problems are sent to school too soon.

Anyway, thank you to both of you for making such a positive and helpful contribution to the discussion.


Tandemracer said...

As a parent who has used the YBCR system I am amazed by the tremendous ignorance exhibited in so many of these posts. No, I am not an educator, but I am educated. And unlike most that have written here I do have years of experience actually using YBCR with my daughter.

Let me address a few of the more common fallacies:
1 - Regardless of how YBCR may be marketed, the system does require more than simply plopping your kid in front of the telly. If you were to actually read the information provided with the videos or on their website you would know this.
2 - YBCR is not a replacement for parental interaction. This reading program is only one more tool that a parent can use to help stimulate their child. We used the reading lessons as a way to bond with our child. Even though our daughter (now 3) can read books independently, she still loves to spend time every evening sitting in our laps to read books with us. She does not watch ANY television.
3 - No, YBCR does not just teach kids to "memorize words". Dr. Titzer's research showed that children best learn to read in much way that they learn spoken language, by associating the written words with the object, action , or image that the word represents. Kids learn to talk by hearing us say words and associating the words with what they see. YBCR does the same with written words. From exposure to the written language children will naturally learn the patterns and will soon develop the ability to recognize those patterns to new situations. Seeing our child gain the ability to read any word, even words she has not seen before, well before the age of 3 has convinced us that this is a far superior way to learn.
4 - Children are NOT deprived or harmed by teaching them to read. I have yet to see anybody back up a claim that children are harmed by learning. If this were the case then maybe we should try to prevent them from learning to talk until a certain educational-establishment-approved age. Why not take advantage of the young mind's amazing ability to learn? Learning to read at a very early age makes reading very natural thing for a child to do and allows them do perform better at everything else that they attempt.

We began interviewing schools a few weeks ago in anticipation of getting my daughter started in a Pre-K program within the next few years. Our primary concern was to find a school that would continue with the head start that we have given our daughter rather than stunting her growth. I have been amazed at the derisive comments from the professional educators when they find out that our daughter can already read proficiently. I can only surmise that these "educators" were more interested in protecting their establishment than in actually educating the children.

Even though I only have a single data point I can say the the results of using YBCR are spectacularly good. I can say without hesitation that teaching our child to read at an early age is the greatest gift that we could ever give to her.

Hurst Reading Center said...


I apologize for being slow to answer your last post. Thank you for calling attention to my comments specifically. I think we just disagree on some points, but overall I find myself agreeing with your position and valuing your moderate, wise counsel. You also reminded me of how important accuracy and specificity of words are in communication.

And that was the case with my statement, "Teaching children early, in a small group setting or a one-on-one setting, is a guarantee for reading success in school." I meant to say, and I believe, "Teaching children TO READ early, in a small group setting or a one-on-one setting, is a guarantee for reading success in school." Teaching them to love to read is also very important. I have not personally seen it fail in my many years as an educator, parent, and grandparent.

I guess I just hold a different belief from your belief that children who have learning disabilities, language delays, or emotional problems should be held back. When those children (who are held back for those reasons)are revisited a year or two later, most often they are still struggling in school or still have the same handicap, almost never become some of the top students in the classroom, and, in some cases, now feel as though they are inferior children. I am almost always against holding children back.

Language delays often go on for years. That issue is one elementary teachers can deal with. I have taught wheelchair bound children, one deaf child, some with speech handicaps, one child who ran away from the classroom and the school whenever he felt overwhelmed, and many other unique situations. All are handicaps. All of these children coped better with their situation if reading was not an issue. Reading gave them the foundation needed in a school setting, for possible success in all other ways. School is really all about reading when you think about it. I would like it to be more about thinking and creating and problem solving, but it is not there yet.

I would, possibly, support the practice of holding children back if schools could prove to us it actually helps the child. It doesn't seem to. It tends to diminish the child.

Or, at least, that is my experience and belief. I think conversation such as you provide here is extremely valuable. Only the future, with all of our collective input based on experience, and with all of our sincere caring for children, will tell us the direction education should go. So, thank you for the venue, for the respectful guidance, and again, for your specific comments.

I would like to commend Tandemracer for obviously being an involved and progressive parent. Tandemracer, you have a difficult job ahead of you to now get the schools to teach your child at the level he or she has currently reached. It's a mystery how American schools (maybe all schools) want children who test well, but spend little effort on expanding the success of advanced children at the elementary level. Schools actually seem to believe that uniformity of students is more important than individuality. I guess we have a deeply rooted belief in a homogeneous education and society. I've found persistent but respectful contact with the school's administrators is the best avenue of advocacy for your child. It helps to know the research on gifted, or creative, or highly motivated children. Don't give up. Do demand. Be understanding of the difficult jobs teachers have. Honors classes, AP classes, and early college classes will help your child a lot once Middle School and High School is reached.

Jodi Heaton Hurst

Medisoft said...

Nice article Dr Cairney, good reading information to know!

Trevor Cairney said...

Thank you to Jodi and Tandemracer for excellent contributions to the discussion.

Tandemracer I’m glad that you and your child have had such a positive experience of YBCR. I also accept that there are some comments on this blog that express views with which I don’t agree, but that’s the nature of blogging. There is also some great wisdom shown by the many respondents. There are also vastly different experiences and children to whom the comments sometimes relate. You’re right that learning does not harm children, but inappropriate teaching practices and learning activities that are developmentally inappropriate CAN harm them. As a parent you need to make wise choices in this area. It sounds to me that you’re thinking very carefully about these choices. But be careful, your child is still young and there is still scope for you to push your daughter too hard and too fast. Anyone who has raised a number of children to adulthood, and/or has taught other people’s children will attest to the impact that over zealous parents can inadvertently have on their children. Well-motivated parents can make mistakes. From my very earliest post on YBCR you will see that this has always been one of my major concerns. If you read the rest of my posts on this site you will realize just how much I love challenging children to learn and how important I think it is to set goals for children that are just in advance of their stage of development. You might have a look at some of my posts on
'Supporting children's learning'.

Jodi, thanks for contributing again, I like to hear your input, you always have great things to say. I don’t think we disagree much about how to deal with learning disabilities. I didn’t say that children “who have learning disabilities, language delays, or emotional problems should be held back”. What I said in response to your comment - that many normal children are held back - was to say the following:

“I'm also not too sure that many of the children held back by parents are 'normal' children. This isn't my experience in Australia. The default is that most parents want their children to go to school, hence some children with learning difficulties, language delays and emotional problems are sent to school too soon.”

I stand by this comment. If your child does face some of the issues listed above, you will (and should) give special consideration to whether you will place them in a mainstream Grade 1 class (or Kindergarten as we call it in Australia). Like you, I’ve dealt with children of varied abilities and backgrounds in the one class and have seen them grow as learners, but it can be harder, so extra care is needed in deciding whether to send them or not. The research evidence is mixed concerning acceleration, and remember that's what we were talking about, not sending them at the 'normal' time. In relation to acceleration, we can be fairly certain that some children benefit by being held back and some benefit from being accelerated. So this means that we need to think carefully about such choices.

Anyway, thanks for your comments.


Hurst First Let's Read said...

Yes. I completely agree.

Jodi Heaton Hurst

Raoul said...

I just wanted to provide some updates on our daughter and then I will have a bit of a rant.

Our daughter has now finished Year 1 and again has done excellent in all areas including getting an Award for Italian.

At her midyear 1 assessment she scored 30/30 for her guided reading levels.

I don't know a lot about these reading levels but one of our customers who is a teacher in QLD said that they only had 2 girls in year three that had reached level 30 and that for most they reach this in year 4. Maybe the QLD levels are different to NSW but we are really encouraged about this. Our school is very guarded about some information that may be used to 'compare' children. Maybe someone here can offer some 'norms' for the NSW guided reading levels.

Her maths teacher is very impressed by our daughter’s results and has specifically mentioned that she may go into an OC class next year.

One of the things that really disappoints me when talking to a small number of people about YBCR is this perception that we parents are just drilling and driving our kids. I can't stress enough how typical a family we are, how typical a child our daughter is. Our daughter still watches too much TV, Eats too much Junk Food listens to an iPod, does karate, Soccer and Little Athletics. As her parents we accept responsibility for the good and the bad habits. Unfortunately the bad ones are easy and the good once are hard to get into.

'Hot Housing' is not a product problem it is a parenting problem. Those parents that want to push their children will do so with whatever tools they have. But 'Hot Housing' is completely different to giving children the best opportunities to learn.

As most parents know it is hard enough to get children to stop watching TV, I would suggest it is impossible to make children watch TV. Our prime goal is to make learning fun. It is easy to learn something if you enjoy it and very difficult if you don't. I think that a lot of these people who say 'let kids be kids' or 'just let kids have fun' are perpetuating this idea that learning is a chore.

I now know that I can learn whatever I want but if I am not interested then I won't learn no matter how much effort somebody else puts into it. I believe all children are the same.

Sorry I still have more to say but couldn't fit it in 1 post ;-)

Raoul said...

Sorry here is the rest of my rant.

Our children are learning every waking minute of their lives. They learn from us and what we expose them to, positive and negative. We all know a 3 year old that can sing wiggles songs word for word, quote lines from their favourite movies and TV ads and even know a few choice swear words and exactly the context and tone with which to use them. They have learnt what they have been exposed to. Why not expose them to more positive things and they will learn those instead.

One of my favourite quotes is from Dr Karl. I heard him on TripleJ radio several years ago talking about how much we, as parents, dumb down our children. He gave the following example. He was in the garden with his daughter when she picked up a flower and asked him 'what is this'. He replied 'a flower'. His daughter then went and picked a different type of flower and again asked him 'what is this'. Again he replied 'it's a flower'. However as he said it was a completely different type of flower. Now they were both flowers but there is a whole lot of information that was just left out and as far as the child was concerned doesn't exist. As parents we can't always know the answer however we need to be aware exactly what we are telling our children even when we aren't telling them anything!

One of the things that I stress to my customers is the importance of Self Esteem and Confidence when a child starts school. Hopefully it is obvious that more than anything this comes from being part of supportive and positive family environment. However I think that regardless of this starting school (or a new job for us adults) can be a pretty scary and intimidating thing. New people, new places, and new things to do. Of course a primary focus for the education system is to get kids starting to read. If a child struggles with this early in their first weeks at school then this has the potential to have a real negative impact on the child’s confidence. Then the whole school experience turns into a negative and they stop learning. I know it is very simplistic but, based on our own experiences and the feedback of some of our customers who had their own positive and negative experiences at school, I think giving your child that head start before they get to school is critical.

We encourage our customers and enquirers to help their children learn the Dolce word list. Even if they can't read if they have memorised them then I believe that this will give them a huge confidence boost when the start school. We provide the Dolce word list for free on our website as well as free tracing fonts so that parents and children can start creating, writing and reading sentences.

Anyway I am tired of writing this and you are probably tired of reading it. But that’s my $1 worth for today.

One last thing I was handing out pamphlets at a local shopping centre this week and ran into about 10 existing customers that had purchased the products and all of them had positive things to say. Only one person was negative and she hadn't used the products but had a friend that had used it.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Raoul,

I don't usually put up comments that are blatantly advertisements for a product (as your's is given the link from your name) but you offer a great overview of the many and varied ways that parents can stimulate their children's learning. Your child is obviously doing well in literacy, but given the many wonderful things that you attest to doing at home, I doubt that she would have needed YBCR. If you read more of the posts on this blog you'll find plenty of material that won't cause your blood to boil. In particular, you and Dr Karl would find much of interest under the labels for Creativity and Language Experience. It was a good rant, thanks for sharing your insights.


Alexander Abel said...

It would be good to point out one other thing. Being that all people are born differently and everyone will learn at different paces I have seen no studies to show that YBCR makes someone more successful in life. Likewise there are no studies showing it can be harmful. The biggest reason is that it will take 30 years or more to gather that information and in the end who's to say that they wouldn't have the same exact success without YBCR. Recently people have posted about how some in this blog comments section are burning YBCR. This is NOT the case. Personally I think that YBCR is a great program. Compare it to Muzzy which is a program to teach foreign language at a young age. Just like YBCR it works but unlike YBCR it targets children 3 and up. YBCR targets children at less than a year old. This is just too young. There are other things that they need to learn at this age such as love, patience, and I think I put it before, the difference between right and wrong. The same success can be achieved at an older age. Most kids start school at 5, if you started at 3 then there is no reason you wouldn't have the necessary time to give your kids a jumpstart. Except the children with disabilities would be excluded. I like to think of it as what is your parental priority, reading or right and wrong, reading or understanding social relationships? There is much more to life than just reading. If you did it right your child could never learn to read and still end up a success story. There is a lot that goes into life and there is never a guarantee of what you get out of it. Because these posts have a limit I will cut it off but understand that a lot of explanation is being left out. This is a very well thought out idea, not just something I came up with sitting on the toilet. I don't feel the need to rant as usual, I just like to stir the pot.
Jodi, as you type I believe that more and more we don't have many opposing ideas, maybe this last post will bring something up...

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Alexander,

Sorry to take so long to acknowledge your excellent comment. You make some great points. Your strongest point (in my opinion) is that the difference between YBCR and some other programs like 'Muzzy', is that they don't try to teach things that are developmentally inappropriate. As you know Muzzy, for example, is trying to teach spoken language to young children; this is quite different to teaching reading to children under one.

Thanks for your contribution.


schnitzelbank said...

Thanks for such a well-written, well-thought out explanation.
I just got into a conversation with an overzealous mother about YBCR. I said that this isn't reading, and she argued for me to observe her daughter, "reading books."

I think we even must go back and challenge, what does is mean to read? Or the similar argument that understanding and parroting Muzzy videos does not equal knowing a language.

Reading is more than just sounding out words, stringing words together, or even basic comprehension. True reading involves many higher-order processes. To read, one must be able to draw on background knowledge and schema, to be able to respond to novelty, attend to variable reading tasks (scanning vs. deep reading), and employ reflexive meta-reading.

Developing these higher-order processes is fundamentally biological. We can't force ourselves, or our children, to progress outside of the range of developmental boundaries, constrained by age. Environmental factors affect development, as well, and we can only imagine how a home environment of "Drill and Kill" would affect motivation and quality of input.

Unknown said...


You make a very good point. I do have to play devil's advocate here and say that if you were to bring up the point that this may not be real comprehension while reading still it is reading none the less. Most people that believe in this product will be quick to say even if it wasn't real reading that it is a superb way to have the fundamentals of reading down early and comprehension will come soon after.

Although this is a possibility some have come to the conclusion that though it might really be teaching very young children to read, that there are other developmental milestones that may be lost because of this. What the effects of this are we are not sure. This is where the problem lies, are you willing to gamble with your child? Many of the advocates for YBCR never even thought of the possibilities of a negative effect, they thought "wow my kid could really be ahead so he won't have to work harder when he's older."

It is parent's concern combined with a good advertising scheme plus an initiative of what's best. It almost seems common sense that teaching younger would be better, no thought went into if there was a bad side of if it's too soon to teach that level of skill without the ability to comprehend certain aspects.

You make a very good point that we can't force ourselves. At the age this program is targeted for is just way too young. Their biological make up is just not ready for comprehending the ability to read. What if at three years old a child that has known how to read for years now reads something bad(sexual, criminal or maybe even both) and tries to immitate it simply because he has seen those words before. The child just doesn't know right from wrong yet. Then at 10 years old becomes sexually active and is a father by thirteen. Hypathetical of course but is that really so far fetched as to think it isn't possible.

This is where the gamble comes is. No one wants to lose control of their kid but they are wiilin to roll the
dice. No one knows what issues will come up.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for the positive feedback Julie. Thanks also for adding your own insights which are excellent. Your paragraph on what is actually involved in reading is spot on.

Thanks also for your comments Alex. Your examples near the end are a bit over the top, but your substantive comment that YBCR might not be that helpful for some children is I believe correct. My comments of course relate to learning and development.

Anyway, nice to hear from you both.


HURST FIRST Let's Read! said...

Hi. It's me again, not able to resist commenting to you, Julie.

I wish I knew the context for your comments. My own background leads me in a different direction from your position (as I understand it). While not wishing to defend YBCR, I am also not willing to dismiss its possible contributions to learning to read. I would prefer the debate to be early reading versus traditional school-age learning to read.

Reading. Real reading is being able to look at a sentence of "squiggles" and say the same words that everyone else recognizes those squiggles to be. I cannot read Chinese. The "squiggles" mean nothing to me. Likewise I have no comprehension. But I can read the sentence, "I see a big telobuttoneer," just as a 5 year old student in my school can read it. Neither of us understands it, but both of us ARE reading.

A 3 or 4 year old just beginning to read 7 page books, 1 sentence to a page, is not reading at the same level as a college med student, but both ARE readers.

I do not believe developing these higher order processes is biological. Virtually any person coming to our center can reach a very high level of reading. Likewise, the "range of developmental boundaries constrained by age" that you mentioned are changing. We are proving in our small reading development center that the idea of 5 or 6 as an optimal age to begin to read is just not correct. We start children as early as 2 and 1/2. Trust me, there is no coercion. The children let us know if they are not ready. If they are ready, they show us that too. Early reading is exciting and appropriate. I expect it to be the new direction education takes.

Our children and parents would be surprised at the thought of "drill and kill." Who would want that? Quality early reading programs are all about playful reading mixed in with painting and swinging and any other fun childhood activity between adult and child.

Thank you for listening to me.... one more time! And the debate will continue as we all know. Alex, I cannot remember what age you said your son is, but obviously he has a Dad who is exploring all options and thinking seriously about the whole learning system. Good for you.


glow_worm said...

As a mum to be and a book junkie,
I have a keen interest in developing and enhancing children's reading capacity and came across the YBCR ad today on TV. This is a wonderfully comprehensive blog and I cannot help but ask this question:
Surely the physical tactics used in the YBCR programme can be used to PHONETICALLY teach children to read? (And without spending some £150 odd quid?)
Surely we all can make flashcards and cut out pictures from magazines as well. Can children as young as those advertised in TV learn phonetics like "A" and "N" and "M". And then coupled together "AN" and then add an "M" to make "MAN"? Would making flashcards of the above (etc) and then visually simulating the word through pictures/live actions aid young children to pick up phonetics at a young age?
Your views would be appreciated. xxx

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi 'Glow Worm',

Thanks for your comment and your question. If you read both my posts on YBCR you will see that I express concerns about parents pushing their children into formal instruction (e.g. structured word recognition programs, phonics programs etc). This isn't because I don't see value in the approaches themselves, but I simply caution parents to be careful not to introduce developmentally inappropriate activities that might well have a negative impact on the child's later learning, attitude to learning, confidence etc.

The question you (effectively) ask is whether you could start a phonics program rather than a sight word program like YBCR at an early age. All the cautions I issue with YBCR would apply equally to your plan. Furthermore, what you would be demanding of your 6-12 moth old baby would be even harder. To expect a child to have the auditory discrimination necessary for phonics before they have developed sufficient spoken language ability would be unhelpful (and pointless). In short, I would argue against structured phonics programs at such an early age. Of course, they have a place later. I hope this helps (see my post on phonics HERE).

Best wishes,


Julie Christopher said...

My daughter was three when I went to the local teacher's supply and bought the wipe off books for writing the alphabet, numbers and shapes.

She already knew her alphabet, but not how to write it, nor did she totally understand phonics. Over time I have found it enjoyable to help her with her "school" as she calls it. I never make her do it, but try to read to her everyday. I help her sound out words all the time.

When I saw YBCR, I thought she might be too old to start it. But at the same time she picked up sign language so easily. I felt with the basis I have already started that YBCR could help her understand and help me show her how to sound out those words above memorization.

Most of all,she enjoys spending time with Mommy learning new things.

I can see the argument for the "sight" reading could have a point for younger children who have not been introduced to phonics or other instruction.

They could become confused if they are only "site" reading through memorization.

I am in no way trying to make my child more "clever" or be a genius. I simply enjoy helping her learn new things.

I want an educated child, not a parrot who can only repeat. I do feel YBCR can be beneficial if used with other methods.

My daughter just turned four and we are just starting YBCR. Inaddition to the "site" learning, we are sounding out the words and writing them.

In closing, YBCR can be a beneficial tool when used in conjunction with other tools, and would be better suited for a child who is ready for such instruction, possibly just before preschool.

Thank you

jodi said...

I am impressed at how moderate and logical you sound. Your daughter is lucky to have such an involved mother.

The truth about reading is that there is not just one RIGHT method. It takes a flexible adult who is willing to go with the style best suited to her child, and has the ability to make the learning exciting for the child. You've got that I believe. Good luck.

Hurst Reading Center

Trevor Cairney said...

Thank you Julie for your balanced comment. Like Julie I also agree that there is no one best method to teach children to read. For the benefit of readers who haven't read both my posts on YBCR and the comment strings on both posts, neither post was ever suggesting that there is a single best method.

In the case of your experience Julie, what is different to many other people who have offered testimonials to YBCR on my blog, is that you didn't start YBCR until your child was older and had already developed good spoken language and some literacy skills.

One of my major concerns with YBCR is that people are encouraged to start using it when children are less than 12 months of age. I continue to caution parents that this introducing a structured literacy program of this type at a very young age is not something that I would advise. My many other posts give lots of guidance concerning the many ways that young children can be introduced to literacy from birth.

Thanks for your comment Julie (and your's too Jodi).


Rosie said...

Aloha, Dr. Cairney, for a very insightful article. I completely agree with the idea that parents feel the need to hurry their children in more ways than one. Some of it comes from the need to live vicariously through our children...we want them to succeed where we failed perhaps? Some of it comes from the desire to provide the very best for our kids so they can be the best they can be in life.

As a mother of a gifted son (I had suspected it all along but it became a reality when he was tested at school) and a child of a an average, normally-developing daughter, I have struggled off and on with how I should handle their education. I can't go into detail over what I have tried or how I have inadvertently pressured them (especially my son) in my effort to be the mother of the year, but I can tell you that I eventually decided to chill out because I could see it was hurting my son.

My son is now 9 and my daughter is 6 years old. Despite his gifted status, my daughter gets the same, if not better grades, and both are flourishing socially and academically. Why does my daughter sometimes get better grades? She works harder at it! Everything comes easy to my son, so he tends to not study as hard and rushes through his work. He still gets straight As, but my daughter gets all of the pluses (she is on an E grading system at her age) because of her effort. Just so you are aware, my son was reading and writing at 3 (naturally...I didn't do any reading programs with him) and my daughter didn't start reading until she was 5. Yet she was also socially advanced and she knows that hard work pays off. I think one day she may surpass her brother academically because of her effort and responsible approach to education. I still have to remind my son to be responsible about his studies and that no matter how easily he learns, he still needs to study because the material gets harder as he gets older.

I could go on forever, but my point is that being ahead at a young age doesn't mean you will stay there. There are many aspects involved in education and growth and development. By simply letting your kids be kids and providing them with love, support, guidance, resources, etc., they will flourish at their own paces. No matter what they are doing at 18 months or 2 years, that does not mean they will be scoring 100% on related tests in 4th grade. I highly recommend that we as parents stop pressuring our kids to be superhumans and help them to realize their potential emotionally, spiritually, and academically. I believe you will find that wherever they stand academically in school at a particular age, they will be much happier and well-adjusted as a result.

HURST FIRST Let's Read! said...

Hi, Rosie,

I've enjoyed Dr. Cairney's site and contributed to it, as you obviously have also. May I comment on your post? First giftedness:
Some of my own young children tested as gifted, others did not. Then when we moved to another state where requirements to be labeled "gifted" were slightly different, all of a sudden all of them were so labeled. And what does that mean? One book on my bookshelf is Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind. It explains the idea of multiple intelligences and thus multiple kinds of giftedness. Other books expound on the theory as well. In my years as a teacher I enjoyed so much giftedness from so many different children that I eventually decided that all children are gifted. My goodness! Look what every child accomplishes from birth and so much of it seemingly spontaneous. Look at the amazing ways "handicapped" children find to overcome their handicaps! Yes, I also had a child who self taught herself reading at the age of 3. But all my now adult children are marvelously intelligent and accomplished people.

Second, early reading:

It frustrates me how slow the academic world is to accept the teaching of reading to any child younger than 5 or 6. There is a magic age? Schools do the job better than parents who adore and are tolerant of their own offspring? My answer is NO to both of those questions. Schools in the United States are good places for the most part but there are also built in flaws. One of those flaws is the concept that some children are not ready for school when others their age are ready. What is really true is that the established format of a classroom where children are expected to learn in a large group setting is not for all children; gosh, not even at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grades! Surely this is not unique to the United States? As long as schools will decide to "flunk" or "hold back" some children instead of changing themselves (the schools) to accommodate ALL types of learners, what can parents do? They can protect themselves and their children by giving them a head start into reading. It is one solution to this problem...a solution that is in the hands of the parents. I say be proactive, not reactive.

Hurst Reading Center

Alexander Abel said...


Jodie made a very good point that I don't believe was mentioned before. The standards for intelligence are very different depending on what geologic or cultural area you find yourself. This is very important since most of our decision making process is based primarily on comparisons. This is something that factors in greatly when determining your own child's intellect level. This is what causes us to want to give our children a head start. So that when they are older we can compare them to other children or even ourselves. But as you have also pointed out, our children will eventually find a way as they get older. In this effort to give our children a head start some parents may go to extremes. Some will force their children to study, maybe even start them at ages that most other parents wouldn't even dream of. That's where Your Baby Can Read comes into play. It claims to be able to teach children as young as 9 months old. Some might think that this approach is extreme since there are more valuable lessons to be learned at younger ages. This is the question... How old is too young to start learning to read? We don't know. Why? Because every child is different. Some need one on one and some do well with group learning. So does YBCR work? Maybe. Will it work for everyone? No. My opinion is that it is marketing future success since parents will think that if they start younger they will be smarter than other children by comparison. Though they will be able to read at a younger age this does not necessarily mean that they will be more or less successful or intelligent. This Is something we have been speculating on for quite some time.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Rosie, Jodi & Alex,

So nice to hear from you all.

Rosie you offer some wisdom here, there is no doubt that “…being ahead at a young age doesn't mean you will stay there. There are many aspects involved in education and growth and development…”. Both my posts on YBCR have stressed that I’ve never been opposed to early intervention (many of my posts indicate quite the opposite), the problem is the potential damage that can be caused by over anxious parents who want to push their children too early and too fast. I can see that you’ve learned this lesson from your own experiences.

Jodi you also give a timely reminder of the fact that children can be gifted in many ways. Gardner’s work on ‘multiple intelligences’ is very helpful. I have written about it on this blog HERE. I also agree that we don’t need to wait till children are 5 or 6 to teach them to read. My view is that it starts from birth. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I support the use of flash cards in the cot before the child learns even to speak (I know that this isn’t what you advocate).

Alex, thanks also for picking up on the idea of variable intelligence. I don’t fully follow your point about variations by “geologic or cultural area” but the point that intelligence isn’t a single unitary skill is the main point.



Brandy said...

Just some food for thought for those considering using YBCR: Though I never used YBCR, my oldest son was a very advanced reader. He walked into kindergarten reading the "Welcome to Bear Branch Elementary" sign, which amazed the Kindergarten teachers. However, he was unable to write at the same level. It never posed a problem before entering school, as we only had him writing letters and blends up until that point. So when it came to the "creative writing" assignments they were giving in his class, he would break down and cry. While his classmates were trying to write sentences comparable to what they could read, such as "See Spot run," he was trying to write something like "I brought my penguin to school because I thought my friends would like him." (In fact, many of the children were just pretending to write, as they were just writing down random letters and symbols during this process.) While he was trying to use phonics to spell out his words, he was recognizing they were spelled incorrectly and would have a complete melt-down. It took us almost a year to overcome the frustration that he experienced when he was required to write "creatively" as a kindergartener. It's great teaching your children to read early, but just be aware that it may present a gap between their reading and writing abilities, which may pose some challenges you may not expect. Now my 4-year-old is learning to read and write at the same rate, and it is much better this time around. I would also venture to say that phonics-based programs will better equip your child to be a good speller. Good spellers are almost always good readers, but the reverse of that is not true in many instances. Thanks for posting this - it gave me a chance to think through whether or not to use this program with my preschool-aged children.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this. I have been thinking about purchasing YBCR for my 2 year old son and have been trying to research the product. I was impressed by the babies in the commercials, but I worried that the babies did not truly understand what they were “reading” and also worried about the potential negative effects of learning to read at too early an age.

I think my son is pretty average developmentally… he knows all 26 letters in the alphabet and can identify each letter on sight. He learned them through foam letters in the tub and flashcards with the letter and a real picture (not a drawing) of something beginning with the letter -- A for Apple, B for Ball. We read to him, but mainly read picture books like "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?". I think we’re pretty average and “normal”, as far as how involved we are in our son’s learning.

I considered this YBCR product because I worried that we were not spending enough one on one time with him and his learning. My son goes to his grandpa's instead of "regular" day care. My husband and I both work full time and when we are all together, we usually go on outings (to the Zoo, park, play dates, etc..) to make up for him being cooped up inside the house most of the day.

Anyway.... Being a first time parent, I do not know what to expect or not expect in my son’s learning. His pediatrician has said that he’s smart (although very small physically for his age). And although I very much value our pediatrician’s opinion, your posts and reader comments did help to reassure me that my son will still learn how to read, write, and communicate even without us pushing him into YBCR or other formal or “structured” learning tools before pre-school. I am very glad that I came across your post in my researching YBCR… even though I did just spend an entire work day reading through it all. :D Thanks again to all your readers and to you for the information and different opinions/views. It’s helped me make a better decision.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Amy,

Nice to hear from you and thank you for your comments. Your 2 year old son sounds bright to me (if he can identify all 26 letters aged 2!). Spending time with your children is very important and it sounds as if you're giving him as much time as it is possible for you at the moment. Giving him rich experiences and reading good picture books is very important as are opportunities for creative play. He's also very fortunate (as are you) to be able to send him to Granpa's, this would also be a source of great stimulation.

Best wishes,


Emma Hartnell-Baker said...

I am aware that the post will be moderated first - or I wouldn't be including a site link.

I have actually written an article about this 'program'- and on the page have linked to your own article as I believe my site visitors will find it useful. I am hoping that you are ok with that? I have of course kept all links to your pages.

Please see

As you will realise, my article would be far too long to include here - however I would like to share it with your readers. I explain why YBCR is something that I would not recommend.

I value your comments.
Happy Reading!

Emma Hartnell-Baker BEd Hons. MA Special Educational Needs
Director- 'Read Australia™'

Anonymous said...

We purchased YBCR for our son when he was 3 months old.I laughed when my husband brought it home, I thought it was a crock. But when my husband replied with, “I just don’t want him to struggle with reading like I did".What could I say?

He watched the DVD's each day. At 8 months old, I would ask where is Mommy’s face, ears, nose, mouth etc (the program teaches those words). To my amazement his little hand would touch those specific areas! Being a skeptic, I figured it was some fluke, but continued to play this little game with him, he loved it! So at about 1 yr we made our own flash cards and began to show him the word without reading it, he would crudely touch that area (he could not point at that age). We continued to show the DVDs because he loved them and would get excited. We did not do the flash cards very often, out of sheer laziness. At 2-3 yrs our son was not meeting his milestones for language. He could say single words, but when it came to speaking in two word sentences he just didn’t...He also didn't seem very interested in other children, we attributed it to being an only child. We eventually took him to a neurologist and unfortunately he was diagnosed with Autism. His first day of special needs preschool (at 3 years 2 months). They were introducing the alphabet to him with letters,he took some letters and spelled rocket! They soon discovered he could spell many words. Then at 4 years old, he began to write words with chalk on the driveway. I was shocked, because we never showed him, we would only draw pictures or chalk hopscotch! Fast forward to his current kinder class. He is in a typical kinder class, his class is working on the first 50 sight words and he is mastered sight words 1-170, which I think is about 2nd grade level. I've rec'd so many comments as to reasons why he is reading at a higher level. I’ve been lectured that “it’s not recommended you drill him with flash cards”. This has come from doctors and educators. It really chaps my hide, because I do not drill him with flashcards, in fact we haven't had flashcards in our home for a few years! Our son makes his own! People just do not want to believe that he learned to read with the program. It’s as though they cannot wrap their brains around it…instead they want to pooh-pooh it. At one point I began to resent it, but now I figure it human nature for some to be nay-sayers,and make comments that reading early may even be harmful! At 6.3 years old, my son now is catching up with his language, he is now beginning to speak in conversational sentences. I am so grateful we implemented this program. Knowing how to read early has really helped him learn language. My son is a visual learner (as many of us are). Learning language visually (reading) first then reinforcing the visuals has enabled him to learn spoken language, and perhaps help his little brain make the connections. He began to learn phonics the beginning of kinder with his peers no problem. Was my son an early reader because genetics (I was an early reader), or Your Baby can Read? My answer, who cares? If a parent is motivated to purchase a program that could possibly make things easier, why would anyone want to “de-motivate” a parent? Many parents do not have the knowledge nor time to implement their own so-called reading program. I volunteer in our son’s classroom, and I do notice that visual learners really have a hard time learning in the school setting. Primarily because funding and time does not allow schools to teach according to individual learning styles. I really have to question motives when people knock a program without actually implementing it. Instead hiding behind the claim that there is no proof, nor research. Of course, every child is different and I cannot speak for every child. His eagerness to learn is a parents dream. If I had not experienced it personally I would not have believed it.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Im not too sure how old these posts are but im really hoping that the person 'Raoul' would respond to this post. What he has said has given me great courage and i've seen the video of his daughter reading so well.

I started my little girl on the YBCR program when she was 13 months old. She is now 18 months and reads all the words on the videos + a few more. At this point im not too sure if it is infact memorization or actual reading. I saw the video of Raoul's daughter actually reading (not just memorization) at 2 1/2 and would like to ask him what he did to get her there. What did you guys do after your daughter could read all the words from the YBCR program? Did you read to her every night, did you start her on another program etc? How did she get from memorization of those initial words to reading so well at 2 1/2?

Your feedback would be very much appreciated.

Many Thanks,
Leah. (Concerned Mom of an 18 months old baby girl)

Raoul said...


Thanks for making contact with me. I am more than happy to share info, advice and experience through this blog with the permission of Trevor Cairney, although I am sure that he would not appreciate the blog being hijacked by me so please feel free to contact me through the website.

Let me start by saying that based on the little info you have provided about your daughter you should not be concerned. YBCR should be fun and exciting and if your 18 month old is reading all of the words from the DVDs she is doing fantastic and is on track to reading independently early. It is important to remember that every child is different and not to feel pressure to reach anyone else’s milestones or expectations.

Our daughter started at 4 months so there may be a few differences between Taz and your daughter. However at 18 months it would be difficult, maybe impossible to prove that a child is reading as opposed to memorising. But memorising is a vital step in the learning process anyway.

I don't think we did any other 'structured' activities with our daughter until she was much older. However we did point out and read words as often as possible. Anywhere, Anytime. Reading signs at the shops, street signs, reading bed time stories and pointing to the words as we read them and getting her to point to the words. Getting our daughter to read individual words in the books that we knew should would recognise. We used a magnetic Etcha-Sketch type board so that Taz could see the words being written.

At about 18 months my wife taught my daughter the alphabet. She wrote it down and read it to Taz 3 times and Taz knew it. I think it was easier for Taz as the letters were less abstract as they now related to words and objects that she new.

One thing we found is that our daughters ability was a bit ahead of her confidence. She was initially reluctant to read sentences even though she could read the individual words. We overcame this in about 10 days. When reading in bed I had Taz read every second word. Then we moved onto every second sentence, then every second paragraph and then page. This happened very quickly. Now I would say that her confidence is ahead of her ability, even though she is very advanced.

There was a few very memorable events that demonstrated to me that Taz was actually reading not just memorising. I was typing words out for her on the computer. I starting typing Motorbike. I typed M and she read 'mm'. I added O and she read 'mo'. I added T and she read 'mot' all the way through to 'Motorb' when she worked out what I was writing and said Motorbike. This demonstrated to me that she could recognise individual letters and new the sounds those letter made and could put them together. Another time I was driving home and she was in her car seat in the back. Out of nowhere she said 'bottle shop'. I was very confused as this was not something she would have heard at home. Then I realised we had just passed a big sign that said... Bottle Shop.

This is probably a bit early for your daughter but one of our customers gave us the great idea of allowing your child to make up a story, maybe what they did that day or what they want to do tomorrow. As they are telling the story you write it on the computer in front of them in large fonts correcting their grammar on the computer and also telling them. They can then read the story back (easier for them as they just told it). You can then also print the story out using a tracing font so your daughter can trace the words. This great activity encourages creativity, helps spoken language, helps reading vocab, helps grammar, helps writing skills and motor skills.


Raoul said...

Just as an update Taz is now in Year 3. She has been in advanced classes since Year 2. She has been assessed as being 3 years ahead in Maths and 2 Years ahead in English. She has just completed the NAPLAN tests and started the ICAS competition. ICAS is a voluntary international competition that covers Science, English, Maths and Writing. Taz wanted to do these. We would have been very happy to give these a miss as she has to get to school 1 hour earlier however Taz just loves exams and tests. I cannot bring myself to say no to something that I think will benefit her but I would have much rather slept in.