Learning to read

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A little while ago, the Parent Bloggers Network launched a review campaign for a DVD series, Your Baby Can Read. It’s a set of DVDs and educational flashcards created by Dr. Robert Titzer, designed to help children from infants to age five learn to read.

I fully admit up front that I was highly skeptical. I tend to look at all these “give your baby an edumacation!” products as being a lot of pressure to keep up with the Harvards and the Yales. However, I decided to give the starter DVD, DVD #1, and the sliding flash cards a try. I didn’t necessarily do it to teach Breanna, though I was curious about it; I mostly did it because at age four, Hayley is very interested in reading. She “reads” her books to herself after we put her to bed (telling her the stories based on the pictures and from memory of our reading together time) and she does know her alphabet so she enjoys asking us how to spell various words for her to write out. She can write her own name, Breanna’s name, Mommy, Daddy, Angel, and Henry, so I figured it was definitely worth it to give it a try. I love reading and have been an avid reader for longer than I remember but I have no clue how to teach someone to read so I was curious about the system.

As I expected, Breanna wasn’t particularly interested. I wasn’t surprised because she’s not that interested in what’s on television anyway. If Hayley’s watching something, Breanna will come running for the theme songs but lose interest after that. Beyond that, she likes when I have music videos playing. As a result, she enjoyed listening to the songs on the DVDs and occasionally liked looking at the babies and young children, but she wandered off a lot.

However, Hayley was very into the DVDs. She sat and repeated the words, played the games, sang the songs, and enjoyed the whole process. She also really liked the flash cards; they have the word printed on the front, and it slides apart to reveal a picture explaining what the word is.

Dr. Titzer is an infant learning expert and he believes in multiple methods of learning because he knows that not all people learn best in the same ways. Because of that, the DVDs also use a variety of learning methods – they will show the word on the screen for visual effect, they will have someone say the words for those who need audio for learning, and they also show examples. If they show and say the word clap, they will also show a baby (or a gorilla!) clapping. They also show the words to a couple of popular songs and at the end they have games where you have to find the right word.

There are a lot of things that I like about the DVDs. I like that they use different fonts for the same words. I taught Hayley the alphabet with capital letters and then worried that she wouldn’t recognize the lower case version or different type settings. Clearly I don’t give kids enough credit because she didn’t seem to have any trouble with that at all. I also like that they only use kids in the video. Other than the introduction to parents where we see Dr. Titzer, the actual learning segments only have shots of babies and young kids.

The words seemed odd to me. Instead of really simple words like apple or banana, it seemed really random, words like tiger and elephant, words that don’t necessarily show up in every day conversations. However, as MotherBumper’s review noted, these words also show up in a great deal of children’s story books (and hey, look at the words in Dr. Seuss books – now THOSE are weird).

The program advises that you get your children to watch the DVD (whichever one they’re on) twice per day. It’s preferable to have them watch it with you but at least they’re more realistic than SOME learning DVDs in that they acknowledge this may not always be possible and that it’s okay to put the DVD on while you do other things. Still, squeezing in two viewings a day could get tricky if you have two kids on different levels.

Final verdict? Okay, here goes.

I do think it could be beneficial to Breanna down the road but at this moment she has little interest in the actual words. On the other hand, even when it comes to books she would much rather look at the pictures and has no patience for the reading part. I can rarely finish reading a page before she squeals angrily and flips the page. Hayley? Hayley always loved books and enjoys being read to. As I mentioned, she’s also very interested right now in the process of learning to read and was very gung-ho about the DVDs and flash cards.

Did they work? Yes. She can’t read every single word on all the DVDs but she surprised me with how quickly she learned many of the words. She can now read hi, no, nose, cat, dog, tiger, elephant, clap, arms up, arms down, mouth, and several other words that I’m forgetting. She also quickly learned the concept that adding S to the end is still the same basic word, just more of them (ie, cat vs cats) and that adding ING to the end makes it an action (clap vs clapping).

I will keep showing them to Breanna because I have a feeling it will click at some point; she’s very good with baby sign language so it could work. However, at this point it was totally worth it just for Hayley.

Will it help your baby read? Maybe. The science makes sense, the DVDs are cute (and as a bonus to parents, they aren’t completely obnoxious either), the songs are fun, and I’ve seen it work.

We’re going to put the DVD on later today for more learning fun.

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