Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Children Can't Read

My four-year-old daughter is illiterate.  She cannot sight read any words, has not memorized short board books, and can barely write the first two letters of her name.  I am more than fine with all of this. In fact, I am proud. 

Do not get me wrong, we do read to our children, daily.  They love books, and on any given day would be more than happy to spend hours lounging on the couch with a stack of Pinkalicious and Frog and Toad stories.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Dixon Leung.
However, I am not spending time teaching the girls letters, phonics, and sight words.  Elana does not practice tracing her name, and Maisy (the subsequent child) believes that all letters stand for "Elana".  We send our daughters to a play-based Jewish preschool, where the alphabet is not introduced until they enter the pre-k program.  Their days are spent experimenting with paint, sand, clay, dressing up in costumes, romping outside with friends, planting seeds in the garden, and singing songs about Hashem and Moses (this part is completely foreign to me).

Unfortunately, living in this supermommy environment, where all children are untapped tiny geniuses, I cannot visit the playground without overhearing a mother brag about how her three year old spends hours reading to herself and her younger brother.  And, as an overly self-critical mother, who's mommy guilt only swells with each BabyCenter milestone email, I am constantly second-guessing these choices.

For only $200 the Your Baby Can Read series (as seen on TV!) promises to give your baby "increased communication styles, enhanced learning ability, greater confidence, and future success!!!" The program states that parents can begin putting their baby on the path to literacy at a mere three-months of age.  Using their "scientifically proven" (and patented) instructional materials, parents need only to force their infants to lie in front of a TV screen for an hour or so a day, and let the magic ensue.  In a matter of months, your young, bald, slobbering baby, will be able to identify simple words like: dog, drum, boy, and car (even though she may not yet be able to say these words).  
How illiterate children spend their days.
As enticing as it may seem to brag to all the other mothers at your playgroup that little Max has memorized over fifteen written words, most experts do not endorse this program.  The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a complaint against the company with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that they use misleading marketing techniques and that the program teaches the babies to memorize, not read.  The CCFC alleges that this program is not only deceptive, but harmful, since it encourages abundant television time for infants when the American Academy of Pediatrics explicitly states that children under the age of two should be allowed no screen time.

More importantly, is that infants and toddlers have much more valuable things to be doing with their time: finger painting, running in circles, jumping on couches, pot-and-pan beating, and nose picking (to name just a few).  As we all know, children, especially at this age, are little sponges waiting to soak up any information we offer (even the stray four-letter-word).  They learn through everything they do; playing with dirt and water helps them discover and make connections.  There will be plenty of time for them to learn i before e (except after c) when they are sitting in school desks for the next seventeen plus years of their lives.

As for me and my girls, I know that I am instilling in them a love of literature without the pressure to read and write as toddlers.  By making books and story time an enjoyable and cherished part of our daily routine, I am sure that they will be able to read by the time they enter the work force. 


  1. My husband and I pirated one of the "Your Baby Can Read" videos when our daughters were about eight months old. Sure enough, they learned a few new words (meanings, not how to say or read them), but I didn't have it in me to go whole hog with the flash cards and endless different videos. But it seemed like it worked.

    I didn't really care much, though, because of my own experiences with child prodigies and what happens when you're expected to excel so early in life. I am teaching my toddlers the alphabet, half heartedly, but only because they so obviously want to learn it. I agree with you- let them play. It's the best kind of learning there is.

  2. Teach Your Child to Read Today!

    Reading is one of the most important skills one must master to succeed in life. It helps your child succeed in school, helps them build self-confidence, and helps to motivate your child. Being able to read will help your child learn more about the world, understand directions on signs and warnings on labels, allow them to discover reading as an entertainment, and help them gather information.

    Learning to read is very different from learning to speak, and it does not happen all at once. There is a steady progression in the development of reading ability over time. The best time for children to start learning to read is at a young age - even before they enter pre-school. Once a child is able to speak, they can begin developing basic reading skills. Very young children have a natural curiosity to learn about everything. They are naturally intrigued by the printed texts they see, and are eager to learn about the sounds made by those letters. You will likely notice that your young child likes to look at books and thoroughly enjoys being read to. They will even pretend to behave like a reader by holding books and pretend to read them.

    At what age can you start teaching a child to read? When they're babies? At 2 years old, 3, 4, or 5 years old, or wait until they're in school?

    If you delay your child's reading skill development until he or she enters school, you are putting your child at risk...

    Did you know that 67% of all Grade 4 students cannot read at a proficient level! According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, of those 67%, 33% read at just the BASIC level, and 34% CANNOT even achieve reading abilities of the lowest basic level!

    There is a super simple and extremely effective system that will even teach 2 and 3 year old children to read.

    This is a unique reading program developed by two amazing parents and reading teachers, Jim and Elena, who successfully taught their four children to read before turning 3 years old. The reading system they developed is so effective that by the time their daughter was just 4 years 2 months old, she was already reading at a grade 3 level. They have videos to prove it.

    >> Click here to watch the videos and learn more.

    Their reading system is called Children Learning Reading, and it is nothing like the infomercials you see on TV, showing babies appearing to read, but who have only learned to memorize a few word shapes. This is a program that will teach your child to effectively decode and read phonetically. It will give your child a big head start, and allow you to teach your child to read and help your child develop reading skills years ahead of similar aged children.

    This is not a quick fix solution where you put your child in front of the TV or computer for hours and hope that your child learns to "read"... somehow...

    This is a reading program that requires you, the parent, to be involved. But the results are absolutely amazing. Thousands of parents have used the Children Learning Reading program to successfully teach their children to read.

    All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes a day.

    >> Click here to get started right now. How to Teach a 2 or 3 Year Old to Read.