Reading Programs for Babies: Good or Bad?

Arts and Education, Growth and Development
Reading Programs for Babies: Good or Bad
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Over the last 20 years parents have been bombarded with the marketing of reading programs for babies. These programs claim to teach babies to read, to make babies more intelligent, and to help your baby achieve academic success. So here’s a run down of the pros and cons of reading programs aimed at babies.

Pros:

Early reading
Marketers of reading programs claim early reading will enable your child to read grade level books before school. For parents who are consistent with a program, it is possible for babies to learn to recognize words. (http://www.brillbaby.com/teaching-baby/reading/why-teach-reading-early/the-promise-of-early-reading.php)

Brain development
Marketers of the reading programs claim early reading is when a child is most susceptible to language and reading, and that delaying this until school could actually hinder reading ability. (http://www.brillbaby.com/teaching-baby/reading/why-teach-reading-early/the-promise-of-early-reading.php)

Academic achievement
Proponents of reading programs claim children who go into school reading will have a leg up on school achievement and can use their time more effectively, learn more and stay ahead academically. (http://www.brillbaby.com/teaching-baby/reading/why-teach-reading-early/the-promise-of-early-reading.php)

Cons:

No advantages found
There are no studies that show early reading has lasting benefits for a baby. In fact, some studies have shown an adverse effect from early academic programs. (http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v4n1/marcon.html)

Academics instead of play
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends play as a baby’s best way to learn. The rapid brain growth from birth to three is a time for discovering and understanding their world, and self-motivated play is the best way to do this. Discovering that a ball rolls and a block doesn’t is an important learning outcome of play that involves complex ideas of shape and physics. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182.full)

Too much screen time
Many of the reading programs for babies involve time in front of the television. AAP recommends no television before two for children and after that, a very limited time. Most children have already spent too much time sitting in front of a screen by the time they go to school, so the emphasis should be on ways to lower that time, rather than programs that promote it. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/search?fulltext=screens+children&submit=yes&tocsectionid=From+the+American+Academy+of+Pediatrics&tocsectionid=American+Academy+of+Pediatrics)

Parental anxiety
Every parent wants their child to excel, but the danger of early reading programs is that the child could pick up the parent’s anxiety about the child’s performance. Since most communication is nonverbal, the parent may try to be calm and playful but inadvertently transmit the anxiety to their baby, setting up an association of reading and anxiety. (http://www.greatschools.org/reading/6990-young-children-reading.gs)

There’s a lot of learning in a baby’s play, and it’s doubtful parents need to push their baby to read. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends self-motivated play and reading books to your baby as the best way to help your child learn and become prepared for school. 

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