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I have seen these videos advertised online and on TV, and they make some pretty fantastic claims, showing kids as young as 2 reading complicated words. From what I can find online, it uses a memorization technique, which while possibly providing some real results, does not provide a significant advantage later in life.

Is this teaching method effective, and do the the benefits last into school years? If not, are there down-sides to this?

  • Most of all learning is due to repetition and memorization. Sure, at first all these kids are learning are shapes of words and how to recognize them. But the system isn't only watching DVDs and looking at obscure. It's also putting everything into practical, daily exercises. For example, a word they use often in the beginning is "clap." When you see your child clapping independently, you say "clap" which helps reinforce what they learned on the DVD. – user5602 Dec 27 '11 at 20:15
  • While it’s true that a lot of learning is probably due to repetition and memorisation, it may not be enough. And the question here is: is it enough? And if not, what else needs to be present? Both of these points need to be addressed by this answer. Also, the second part of your answer describes a learning process that is independent of reading, so it’s not relevant here. – Konrad Rudolph Dec 28 '11 at 15:53
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While not a rigorous study, the Today Show investigated the claims made by "Your Baby Can Read," asking 10 different child development experts to weigh in. All ten experts had the same opinion:

Young children can be made to recognize or memorize words, but the brains of infants and toddlers are just not developed enough to actually learn to read at the level the way the enticing television ads claim they can.

The teaching method leaves a bit to be desired, as it requires the child to sit in front of the TV for his lesson. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against TV viewing for children under the age of 2, noting that:

Research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged.

There is evidence that children who learn to read earlier do better in school, but one has to wonder if this is an example of mistaking correlation for causation. More intelligent kids would be apt to learn to read sooner than their counterparts; these same children would do better in school.

Finally, bear in mind that there are no rigorous studies or findings published in scholarly journals that show that the teaching methods employed by "Your Baby Can Read" are effective.

On a personal note, I don't think using the "Your Baby Can Read" program will harm your child in anyway. Nor do I think it will have any long term impacts. However, I posit that you can get the same benefits - promote early reading - by taking the time you would spend showing your child these videos and instead read to your child. You'd also save a chunk of change.

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    This makes sense. My two year old can recognize a picture of an elephant and say 'elephant'. I could teach her to recognize the word as well but i wouldn't call it reading. – Craig Feb 26 '11 at 3:18
  • Sounds about right. Thanks for the AAP link. I generally got that sense on my own, and didn't pursue YBCR. I've instead started something a lot more fun and useful: ASL. Even if my son doesn't pick it up, and I think that he will, I'm learning a ton. – Ustice Feb 28 '11 at 13:24
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    My anecdotal evidence suggests that just reading to your kid will do better. Friend of mine did something like this with his 2 year old, and was constantly showing off all the books his kid could "read", but 2 years later, my kid is able to figure out words he's never seen before and the other guys kid is baffled by words he "knows" that aren't in the familiar context. – Satanicpuppy Mar 3 '11 at 15:54
  • Reading to the kid is better for getting the kid able to read, but it won't leave the kid able to read and correctly pronounce long words like that sort of program (my son had a computer program that taught him words like "airline stewardess"). – David Thornley Mar 13 '11 at 2:25
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    @David: But what if you read your child books that make frequent use of words like "airline stewardess?" – Scott Mitchell Mar 13 '11 at 3:18

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