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Federal Trade Commission Investigating False Advertising Claims Relating to 'Your Baby Can Read'

The 'Your Baby Can Read' product is advertised around the world with their video series run on cable television. Recently however the Federal Trade Commission received a complaint arguing that the product amounts to deceptive marketing.

Read Australia™
Read Australia™
May 13, 2011 - PRLog -- Within our current education system we are often so focused on 'child based learning' and on constructivism (an established theory of knowing and learning rather than a theory of teaching) and teachers often do not realise that there is a serious lack of supporting evidence for its effectiveness in teaching children to read. Unfortunately this 'method' of teaching reading- the 'whole-language' approach to teaching and learning - reflects this philosophy of learning, and has been the predominant approach for early literacy teaching and learning throughout English - speaking countries. This approach assumes that children are inherently active, self-regulating learners who construct knowledge for themselves, with teachers needing to give little or no explicit decoding instruction.

The 'Your Baby Can Read' product is based on this method of teaching reading. It is advertised around the world with their video series having been run on cable television for years. Recently however the Federal Trade Commission received a complaint arguing that the product amounts to deceptive marketing.

On a basic level the Federal Trade Commission will look to the program name- and it's promise 'Your Baby Can Read!'
According to the World English Dictionary- 'baby' - means ' a newborn or recently born child; infant ' Most would describe a baby as a child under the age of one- and a toddler thereafter- generally when they start to 'toddler' around on their feet. So it is not developmentally possible for a 'baby' to 'read'.
The program also does not appear to clearly define what they consider 'to read' to actually mean.

On the 'Your Baby Can Read!' web site the product developer Dr. Robert Titzer states that 'the current practice of starting to teach reading in school is too late. When children develop reading skills during their natural window of opportunity, from about birth to age four, they read better and are more likely to enjoy it.' There is no research to support this statement.
Even very young brains have the capacity to memorize whole words based on their shapes - as is the main component within the 'Your Baby Can Read' program, and to link them with meaning ie see 'wave' and do the action. However this does not necessarily lead to them learning to 'read' and certainly not to develop the skills required to 'spell' words which is interlined with literacy development. It could do more harm than good for many if parents are encouraged to push children into something they are developmentally not ready for. Children need to learn to speak before learning to read- ie our spoken word recorded on paper in text. Babies begin to develop language/ speech at different rates- but most 'babies' aren't able to even 'say' the words on the 'Your Baby Can Read' flash cards. It would be more accurate if the product had been given a name that more accurately describes what can be achieved ie that many toddlers can learn to memorize the shapes of words.

According to the National Institute of Child Health Human Development: only 5% of children learn to read effortlessly, 20 - 30% of children learn to read relatively easily once exposed to formal instruction, and for the remaining 60% of children, learning to read represents a considerable challenge. For at least 20 - 30%, learning to read is one of the most difficult tasks they will ever encounter during their school years. 74% of the children who have reading problems in the 3rd grade, continue with the problems into the 9th grade.
According to National Assessment of Educational Progress, approximately one-third of all poor performers in fourth grade have college-educated parents. Fortunately, 90% - 95% of poor readers can greatly increase reading skills through prevention and early intervention programs that focus predominantly on teaching children about the alphabet code using synthetic phonics. We must teach these children explicitly and directly using (synthetic) phonics if we are to help them before they completely 'switch off'. The problem is that many don't recognise who these children are until already failing- with 'phonics' being used as some type of remedial program. The development of is phonological awareness is not something that is not included within the 'Your Baby Can Read' program.

As an early years educator I believe that language development (and verbal intelligence) is far more important than teaching them sight words- often sadly used like a party trick to impress an audience. I would rather parents read, rhyme and sing with their children- and engage in meaningful dialogues. Ask questions- help them expand their vocabulary and develop verbal intelligence. Develop creativity, encourage imaginative play - faciliate independence and the self-confidence that allows them to get things 'wrong' - and to be self-motivated enough to look for different answers. Show them that the process is what is important- not just the results- or 'getting it right'. The development of verbal, social and emotional intelligence should be your aim- with academic achievement a by-product.

Yes, many children will learn to read using sight words-combined with other skills- ie the whole language approach put forward within 'You Baby Can Read' however if they can learn in this way then, to be honest, they can learn in any way and won't have difficulties later on. Studies show that children can start to learn to read and spell later on and still be at the same level as others. In many countries with excellent academic standards children don't even start school until the age of seven. The Cambridge Primary Review is the biggest review of primary education for more than 40 years. Within the review formal schooling is not recommended until at least six years of age. There is no 'window of opportunity' for learning to read, as there is for learning language - as the creator of the program claims. My approach is to start early and instill a love of learning - and to create an effective partnership with child, parent and then teacher. The confidence that comes with early achievement is far more likely to be what helps that child continue to do well in school. Again, my point being that this is a by-product of being guided within a positive learning environment.

Good early years educators start developing phonological awareness and a love of the written word early on- being careful to make sure they are working at the child's level, that learning is meaningful, and that he is having FUN. They offer play opportunities to create learning. The focus is on helping children to become effective and motivated learners- however they are also aware that learning to read is something most children need to actually be taught explicitly. Literacy is different to most subjects - the children who will find it difficult need direct, explicit instruction in the alphabet code. However trying to do this as early as possible isnt the answer. We need to teach parents what they can do- and also how to know if their child is ready. The children who will struggle in school won't 'just pick it up' - they won't 'just catch' up. If this was the case literacy achievement wouldn't be so poor in so many schools and in so many countries.

Of course there are benefits to using the 'Your Baby Can Read' product as it encourages parents to become actively involved in their child's learning. Many children will love the attention they get when adults cheer and clap their 'success'. And many may develop a love of the written word because of this positive attention- if, of course, they succeed. My concern- as I work with many children who struggle, and who have low self-esteem because of it, is that this will not only confuse many children but give them the wrong message about what reading and spelling is. It sends out the wrong message to parents who are only looking for ways to help their children- and can inadvertently do just the opposite.

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Read Australia™ aim to raise standards of literacy across Australia using a preventative approach, and by empowering parents and carers.

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***@readaustralia.com Email Verified
Source:Emma Hartnell-Baker BEd Hons MA Special Ed. Needs
Location:Gold Coast - Queensland - Australia
Tags:Your Baby Can Read, Read, Reading, Read Australia, Early Childhood, Education, Early Reading, Early Literacy
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