If you took a peek at some of my earlier posts, you would have seen that we were one of the earlier adopters of the Your Baby Can Read (YBCR) program. I actually posted a video of Sam reading words off a computer at 18 months. Sam started showing signs of reading the words as early as 10 months, and it was all uphill from there. Today she can read books (like Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham) from cover to cover in one sitting, and reading comes naturally to her. Pronunciation is something we need to work on for the more complicated words, but all in all I’d say pretty good for a three-year old.
Because of Sam’s success, we became advocates of the program. I had no doubt in my mind that it worked, and so of course, the minute Jamie turned 3 months, we put her on it as well. Granted that each child is different and both girls would most definitely react differently to the program, everyone kept telling me that the true test of it would be to see if Jamie learned to read as well. So I tried to keep the parameters the same as I did with Sam which were: 1)watch the videos 2x a day everyday 2) supplement with word cards and the books; and 3) limit exposure to other TV as much as possible (sometimes she’d crawl out of the playroom and sneak a peek at Sam’s shows). Similarly, I did not expect to see results until after 6 to 7 months, but persevered and kept at it anyway.
At the same time as the months passed, I heard more negative feedback about the false claims and misleading advertising of YBCR. I even received a call to testify against the Class Action that was filed against the company, and publicly state that the program does indeed work. I didn’t want to go into this blindly, and to be honest I did feel I needed to take a step back and “review” the program for myself.
I did my own “digging” and asked around from other moms who bought YBCR to find out how they used it, when the introduced it, and what happened. I decided I wanted to wait and see how Jamie would do if at all she would respond to it. These are the things I’ve learned and realized:
It’s Not The Video, It’s The Parent. If you view the reading program as a one-stop wonder shop where you just sit your child in front of it and expect miracles to happen, naturally it will not work out in the way or the time frame you expect it to. It’s like expecting someone to learn to play the piano by just sitting them in front of it everyday. They may be able to dabble with the keys and pick up tunes here or there, but they won’t automatically learn to read notes, or build their technical musical sense (crescendos, fortes and all those terms). The more valuable piano lessons (I feel), have instructors to guide you through it. So think of it as reading lessons; and therefore the parent (or the designated teacher) has to be there to see it through. The videos, the books, the cards, are all just tools, and in my opinion, they do their job.
The Younger You Start Them, The Higher The Chances of Success. YBCR claims to be able to help children up to 5 years old to learn to read, however based on what I’ve heard from some moms who started their children on it at later ages, they don’t take interest in it. My (untested) theory is that it’s because past the age of 1 or 2, kids are already exposed to other TV shows which are more dynamic and interesting. Words on a screen and a semi-stagnant picture definitely pale in comparison to the likes of Dora jumping around, or Barney singing a song. The reason why I feel Sam (and Jamie) took to the YBCR program is because that was the first and only source of TV they had. They didn’t know any better; and by the time that Sam learned about other TV shows that she liked, she already had YBCR as an integral part of her everyday routine. That’s why in the introductory video on the starter disc and the brochure that comes with the packs (Yes, I read them and watched them), Dr. Titzer advises to remove all other TV shows from their repertoire so that they can focus.
Words vs Phonetics First? It’s the Chicken and the Egg. One of the main points of contention against the program states that it does not teach children to read, but rather to memorize the shape of the words. I don’t know why this is a problem. Again, when I read and watched the parent’s portion of the pack, it specifically stated that the child has to memorize at least 50 words, before beginning to realize that each letter makes a distinct sound. I knew this from the get-go, and quite honestly, it didn’t bother me. Isn’t that a typical mode of instruction anyway in a lot of schools still? Memorize then comprehend?
I will admit though that YBCR falls short at teaching children how to spell, (something I am working on with Sam), which is how most children are taught to read. Learn the sound, put them together and voila you can read a word. Sam took the opposite approach via YBCR and while is able to correctly identify the letters in each word, we still need to work on her ability to spell phonetically. I spoke to Sam’s previous preschool teacher (15-year teaching veteran), and she validated that no one method works better than the other. Either way, if the end result is that they learn to read (and spell), then it means it served its purpose. And just as well, it is not a Your Baby Can Spell program.
Once You Start, You Can’t Stop. Like everything else in a child’s life, consistency and follow-through are key. I am beginning to realize that teaching Jamie and Sam how to read (how do I say, “before their time”) stimulates their brain and their love for learning so much more, making them more open to learning other things at a faster pace. Now I am “stuck” with the happy problem of continuously keeping their minds active and pushing it forward in terms of learning something new (numbers, comprehension, scientific concepts…).
Practical Application is Part of the Process. Apart from the books and videos, a common denominator that I’ve found to have worked with both girls and with others I’ve talked to (who say that it’s worked for them as well), is by identifying and labeling actual items that the kids see in the materials. For instance, when the girls and I make our trips to the supermarket, I take the time to point out and repeat the fruits, vegetables and viands that we come across. I (We) feel that it reinforces what they see in their 2-dimensional tools and helps to connect the brain synapses.
Let the Child Lead. At the end of the day, each child is different and will take to the tools differently. Sometimes it will take a little bit of creativity or more patience, and sometimes, they will just feel that it is not the process that works for them. Just like the piano — everyone can take lessons, but not everyone will like it, or take to it wholeheartedly.
Now where does that leave us with Jamie? I am proud (and relieved!) to say that at almost a year old, she does have some words under her belt. I’m still waiting for the opportune time to capture it on video, and I can get back to you on the details of that in another post.
All in all though, I would say that I do stand by the fact that the program can HELP teach your child to read at an early age. Definitely it takes a lot of time, commitment and effort, and it has to be used within the expectations and parameters mentioned above.