Almost since the invention of the television, various companies have claimed the television can teach children to do amazing things. A series of videos called, “Your Baby Can Read” are just the latest in a series of television shows and videos that claim they can teach your children better than any more traditional method can. Of course, if the claims of these videos really were true, we’d be seeing a massive influx of child prodigies. The fact that this is not happening, however, has not stopped numerous parents from buying into the hype surrounding these videos. Unfortunately, these videos are not only a waste of your money; they may actually undermine your child’s long term reading skills. Here’s why:
The Importance of Hands On Learning
Despite the popularity of flashcards, workbooks, and videos that purport to teach children things, the best way for children to learn is via hands on experience. Study after study has shown that children who read the most proficiently at the youngest ages are children whose parents frequently read to them and who have a house full of books. When reading is made fun and relevant to life, children learn to read more quickly. When reading is only something that happens on a video, however, reading is not relevant to your child.
Memorization vs. Hands On Learning
Several developmental psychologists who have studied the “Your Baby Can Read” series point out that children do actually appear to be reading the words. The key word here, however, is “appear”. As it turns out, the children are memorizing the words as opposed to reading them. While this might seem like a trivial difference, memorizing words and learning the sounds of letters are two distinctly different skills. Children who learn to “read” by memorizing a few words may struggle with reading further down the road. They expect to be able to instantly learn words, which may be possible for a few words on television, but is just not realistic for the entire English language. Further, parents who buy their children reading videos are less likely to actually read to their children, which means these kids operate at a double disadvantage. They expect reading to be easy and involve memorization, and they have little familiarity with the process of reading.
Think back to your first days learning how to read. Odds are good that, after you learned how to read your first word, you quickly learned how to ready 20-50 other words. Natural reading develops quickly and in spurts. Conversely, when your child watches a reading video, she spends hours in front of the television to learn one or two words. This is simply not the way people learn how to read. You could teach your child to read yourself in much less time than the time a video takes.
Other Damaging Effects of Television
The American Academy of Pediatrics has been very explicit that, when children are exposed to television prior to the age of two, their brain development suffers. This includes exposure to so-called educational television. When your child watches a reading video, she misses out on more meaningful educational opportunities. Moreover, television can actually alter the way your child’s brain develops, affect her vision, and make it more difficult for her to concentrate.
Though it can be tempting to try to keep up with trends, and though you want to give your baby the best start possible, reading videos are damaging to your child’s long term development. People have been learning to read for centuries with more traditional approaches, and most people who learn to read very young learned to read because their parents were actively involved in reading to them. Try this approach and your baby really may end up reading early!
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