Baby Can Read

Reporter: Helen Wellings

It's called "Baby Can Read" and while it's trying to get babies reading, it's certainly got everybody talking.But, as Helen Wellings reports, opinions are divided on whether it works - and whether it's good for our kids."There are long term studies that the earlier the child is taught to read, the more likely the child will enjoy reading and the earlier the child is taught to read the more likely the child we read better," said Dr Titzer.

"The question is, does learning to do that help the child down the track to be a good reader who really enjoys reading books, who is a better reader in the class than the other children?" says Professor Anne Castles.How astonishing, babies "reading" when they can't even walk or talk?

"Every child has one natural window of opportunity for learning language and that window goes from about birth to about age 4. So it is actually easier for a baby to learn language skills than it is for a 5 or 6 year old," Dr Titzer says.

Dr Titzer's idea came from teaching his two daughters, like 9 months old Aleka, with his word-cards, home-made reading videos and books, for two 20 minute sessions a day - he says now they're excelling at University."There is no evidence that teaching children to recognise words early helps them to be good readers down the track. There is no evidence to support doing this with children at such an early age," Professor Castles said.

Macquarie University's Professor Anne Castles, leading researcher in reading and language development and dyslexia, believes actual reading is a far more complex process. "They are learning a particular visual symbol, but if you were to show them that same word, say in upper case, they are not going to be able to read it anymore so a bit like recognising the McDonald's sign? That's right," Professor Castles said.

"I think in the beginning they just recognise sound, but thereafter it is the constant repetition of that and the sounds and they learn to read," said Gianna. Gianna De Bella started 20 months old Arnika on Baby Can Read at 9 months."They're stimulated, she loves doing it and its just going to set her up for life because of that love of learning, hopefully that will continue down the track"I started using the DVDs of Your baby can read from under 1 year old," Michelle said.

Baby Can Read's media person offered us Michelle Hackney's bright sparks, aged 2, 5 and 6 years, to exemplify the programs benefits But they'll excel regardless."If you are busy and you want something to help you it is just an aid that helps you get there" she said.

Critics say putting little ones in front of educational DVDs does not aid development. These Baby Einstein videos claimed to be educational, to boost toddlers IQs. But following threatened law suit in the United States, the Disney producers have dropped the word "educational" and are now offering refunds to millions of parents who bought them Parents are showing these mindless entertainment-based videos to babies where objects are spinning around and the babies are listening to classical music that has absolutley nothing to do with what is going on," said Dr Titzer

Dr Titzer says his program is vastly different from Baby Einstein because it's interactive and multi-sensory."The babies are not just sitting there the babies are clapping, waving, doing the actions with the babies on the screen" he said.And if you don't want to spend the $160 to buy the program, he suggests get involved - make your own word cards and reading videos."Parents need to show the babies words, point to the words from left to right as they say them, demonstrate what the words mean, and just have fun playing with words. And every baby no matter how much money they have every babies life can benefit by learning to read at the same time the baby learns to talk," said Dr Titzer.

For more information:

CONTACTS:

* Professor Anne Castles.

Macquarie University Faculty of Human Sciences,

Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science,

Ryde, Sydney.

STUDIES IN LITERACY LEVELS OF DIFFERENT COUNTRIES:

* UNESCO study: www.unesco.org

* PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) conducted by IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) Lynch School of education, Boston College. The website is http://timss.bc.edu/.