Reading together is one of the best ways to promote learning
Your Baby Can Read! says the ad. Wow, sounds impressive. In fact, the babies in the commercial, who are eagerly reading three-syllable words from flash cards, look younger than your toddler. Is your child already falling behind?
If this is a time of rapid brain development, should you be doing more to encourage your toddler to learn?
Surprise! Just by being a loving parent, you’re probably doing all you need to help your toddler learn. “Parents’ relationships with their children — at all ages — are critical in promoting learning,” says Marilyn Chapman, director of the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “Learning is emotional as much as it is cognitive, and emotions help memories ‘stick.’ We want children not only to learn, but to feel good about doing it and develop a positive, healthy identity.”
But the “teach your baby to read” kits and similar programs — such as DVDs promising to develop baby’s right and left brain hemispheres — get a thumbs-down from Chapman. “There is no value in these programs, and there is potential for harm,” she says. In fact, these products are falling under scrutiny. The Walt Disney Company was forced to drop its claims that its Baby Einstein products were educational after a complaint was filed with the US Federal Trade Commission.
Chapman is especially concerned about the early reading kits. She explains that children need to learn that reading and writing are forms of communication, and that reading can be fun and can help us learn things we want to know. Children taught to read too early often become turned off reading because the fun of it has been stamped out, she finds.