Up until about two months ago, we didn't let our daughter watch TV. No Dora, No Sesame Street, No Baby Einstein, No Lion King. None. Zip. Nada. Not even "secondhand" TV.
We made this choice for a number of reasons. We wanted to spend our moments outdoors and engaged in play and storytime. We felt that most of the shows available were too stimulating and too sensational. Perhaps, most of all, we made this decision because my husband and I watch very little TV - it's just not a part of our way of life and never really has been. Strange, but true.
Then - I heard about "Your Baby Can Read." It's a DVD designed to help babies and toddlers read. I was skeptical at first, but interested. After all, I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful to offer my daughter the gift of early literacy?
We first watched the movie with our daughter when she was around 17 months old. We were impressed by the "slow" pace - a word accompanied by the word's image. It was simple, but that simplicity actually won us over. Both my husband and I could see how this could really teach our daughter to read.
I had the privilege of talking with Dr. Robert Titzer, the show's creator and a professor at Indiana University.
ME: When did you first create the Your Baby Can Read Learning System and when did it officially become available to the public?
TITZER: I first starting doing this when my daughter was 3 months and 9 days old on August 11, 1991. I just started by writing words on paper plates. I then created a very interactive video. The first professional video came out in 1997.
ME: What research have you done to authenticate the system and do you have statistics about “success” rates?
TITZER: Studies show that the earlier the child reads, the better the child reads (even when you control for IQ and socioeconomic factors) and the more likely your child will enjoy reading.
The gap between early readers and later readers actually increases over time. If someone learns to read earlier, they read better than children who learn later. It's The Matthew effect – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
I can't say a success rate overall because many people purchase the DVD series at a store and we don't have any way of tracking them.
ME: The DVD is meant for ages 3 months to 5 years and yet the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children until after age two. What are you thoughts on this?
TITZER: The American Academy of Pediatrics has a very long history of oversimplifying things. For example, the AAP was opposed to breastfeeding in the 1970s . In the case of the TV recommendation, they didn’t differentiate if the baby was watching the news, a sporting event, a soap opera, or a baby video.
That said, we have many pediatricians who have used our videos and recommend them. Our videos are not at all similar to other videos.
I agree that it is harmful for babies to watch TV. I have been saying that for 12 years. Most videos have little or no educational value. I’m actually one of the most anti-television people you will ever meet.
Our videos are different. They're very interactive. They're not passive. Other videos have very small educational value and are entertainment-based . They will not change the baby’s life. The impact that ours has is dramatic.
ME: How many children do you have, what are their ages, and did you use the system with them?
TITZER: I have two daughters: Aleka, 16, and Keelin, 13. Both learned to read using the videos.
I just came from Keelin’s P/T conferences. The teachers say she is a fantastic student. She doesn’t have to work hard. It's been like this since the time she entered school. She has straight A’s and A+’s. This "ease" has a huge impact on the quality of her life. She has time to do other activities and does not need to stress out about school.
My other daughter, Aleka, graduated at 16 and is already a sophomore in college. She received a perfect score on the SAT Verbal section.
ME: Do you have any tips to help parents encourage their children to become voracious readers?
TITZER: The first thing I would say is reduce or eliminate all other TV. Especially during the first year.
I recommend many different kinds of books:
Finally, intentionally try to teach your child to read. It is not enough to simply read to your child.
ME: Is it beneficial to begin this series after the infant stage?
TITZER: It definitely is. It’s even better at age three or four than it is at age five or six – and it’s better at five or six than at seven or eight. No matter how old the child is, you want them to learn to read. It’s better now than waiting six months or a year.
Tonight before dinner, my husband pulled out a flashcard and I heard my daughter say "dog." I looked over and he smiled, "she said it without any prompting." I smiled.
P.S. You can see clips of babies reading on the Your Baby Can Read site.
WIN IT! One winner will receive Your Baby Can Read! 5 DVD Box Set & Sliding Word Cards. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post prior to Thursday, April 10 at midnight (don’t forget to follow the rules). The winner will be announced and contacted on Friday, April 11. * Winner must provide a U.S. mailing address.
*UPDATE* The winner is #86 Shay. Congratulations!