PARENTS

Babies Can't Learn To Read - So Ditch The Flashcards And Alphabet Blocks

14/08/2014 16:58 | Updated 20 May 2015

Baby holding building blocks

Pushy parents have been warned that they're wasting their time with efforts to encourage their babies to read early.

A New York study claims DVDs, word cards and books will do little, if anything, to help teach a baby to read.

A seven month experiment with babies aged up to 18 months found reading and flashcards made no difference to the children.

However, the babies' parents were convinced their children were learning to read, despite there being no scientific evidence to show this was true.

School of Culture, Education and Human Development tested a range of available 'reading' products for babies.

This included DVDs, books with flip pages and specially designed word and picture cards, with the intention of getting the children to read earlier.

The research, reported in the Journal of Educational Psychology, took place over seven months with 117 babies aged nine to 18 months.

The children were randomly given different products or no products at all.

Those given the products were asked to use them daily and researchers paid the families regular visits to test the language development of the infants and to interview parents.

The children were also brought into the lab to be given reading tests while tracking their eye movements.

These can show experts whether a child is actually reading and recognising words or simply looking at shapes on a page, for instance.

Professor Susan Neuman said: "While we cannot say with full assurance that infants at this age cannot learn printed words, our results make clear they did not learn printed words from the baby media product that was tested.

"It's clear that parents have great confidence in the impact of these products on their children. However, our study indicates this sentiment is misplaced."

Despite this pessimistic view, a different study published earlier this month seems to contradict the findings.

Psychologist Anne Fernald found that reading your baby a bedtime story could yield benefits for years to come. She said that the effects are so profound that talking to children should be treated as importantly as feeding them.

And Dr Fernald of Stanford University in California said: "If you want your kid to do well in school, talk to them as a baby. "If you bring a child into the world, we take on the responsibility for feeding them, keeping them clean and keeping them safe.

"I think we now have enough scientific evidence to add something else to that list – and that is providing learning from infancy on. Long before your baby is speaking, it is absorbing information about language."

Suggest a correction