I never had a vested interest (even a general interest) in the product, because I saw little of significance in the program. To be honest, my views haven’t changed much, because there is simply no evidence to change my original position and advice given. The YBCR promotional material and various websites have claimed that there is extensive research evidence to support the program. Dr Titzer’s own web page suggests that “Dr. Titzer has become a recognizable expert in the area of infant learning and his work has been published in scientific journals - including the prestigious Psychological Review”. This statement lacks evidence. He does have a single publication in Psychological Review (1999), but it does not even deal with literacy and learning and is unrelated to his product. I am yet to see a single published study that offers evidence in support of the YBCR claims that allay my original concerns expressed in both previous posts.
Like readers of this blog I have seen some of the videos of very young children who have used YBCR reading at a very young age. I have also seen videos that show the same children reading more complex books at later ages. However, many parents of gifted (or even average) children could show you children who are very precocious readers with no formal instruction prior to school entry and yet, just 12-18 months later are reading quite complex novels 6+ years beyond their reading level. The videos are not research evidence and do not counteract my original concerns and warnings as well as a few new ones. The videos are only remarkable in that babies are reading words very early. What is still unclear is whether teaching children to read words in structured (‘school-like’) situations leads to long-term benefit, or if it in fact could have adverse consequences emotionally, socially and cognitively.
1. Does YBCR teach children to read? NO. But, can YBCR teach very young children to read single words by sight? YES. But is reading individual words by sight and memory ‘reading’? No! Certainly not in the fullest sense that I understand reading. Reading involves a search for meaning and understanding derived from written symbols using knowledge of language and the world. Effective readers ultimately need to: learn the sounds of language and their correspondence with print; understand the structure of language and how it works; learn how to use language appropriately for specific purposes; and learn to comprehend, interpret, use, appreciate and critique written texts. YBCR cannot achieve this. Of course, as some supporters of YBCR have commented on my previous posts, many users of YBCR adopt other practices in addition to the product that they purchase (e.g. reading to their children, stimulating their language etc). Research evidence on early reading would suggest that many of the ‘other things’ are probably the reason for the high performance of YBCR ‘graduates’, building on their intelligence and general giftedness, not the ability to ‘bark at print’ or even videos. While I am not suggesting that learning sight words has no value (it does, see some of my previous posts listed below), I am suggesting that children need much more to truly learn to read, and the things they need cost little.
|Above: Browsing through 50cent books at an Opportunity Shop|
2. What are the long-term positive and negative benefits of YBCR and other programs like it (e.g. does it lead to superior lifetime performance, or even high school)? We simply don’t know, because there is no longitudinal research that addresses this question for this program.
3. Is there evidence concerning the benefit of accelerating children’s learning through instruction? Yes, there is some but it is primarily based on the acceleration of older learners (over the age of 6 years) and it is equivocal. It is inappropriate simply to extrapolate from these studies to the acceleration of preschool children. Even based on the studies of older children, there is evidence to suggest that any academic gains for children who are accelerated are greatest in the early years of schooling with the bulk of benefit disappearing over time. It’s also worth noting that the leading nation in literacy over the last 10 years based on the OECD funded PISA assessment of 15 year old literacy levels in over 70 nations is Finland (recently Japan and Korea have joined them at the top), where doesn’t school starts until age 7 and there are only 9 years of compulsory schooling.
One of my over-riding concerns with approaches like YBCR is that children at a very young age are being placed under the pressure to learn material using repetitive and structured learning, not usually encountered until years later within the context of formal education. I have concerns about unintended effects of ‘hot-housing’ (i.e. intense study to stimulate a child's mind) by parents at home with limited training and knowledge of language development and learning.
The Hurried Child’ (1981) in which he warned against the tendency for some parents to want to accelerate their children’s progress prematurely with little knowledge of what they were doing. Elkind stressed that children need time and appropriate learning strategies to develop normally. He also warned against the temptation to pressure children with simplified learning tasks at a very young age which inevitably end up relying on lower-level cognitive processes such as memorisation, repetition and simple word and sound recognition that could ultimately be at the expense of activities with greater richness and complexity.
4. In an age where time seems limited for family life and interaction with young children, is YBCR valuable use of this limited time? I don't think so. In introducing a program like “Your baby can read!” you are essentially devoting time to structured repetitive learning of a limited type that would probably replace other forms of learning (like play, firsthand experiences, story reading, craft, music etc). I'd encourage any parent in this time poor age who is considering using this program to ask themselves two simple questions: What other things would I stop doing while I use this program? What would be the impact of the loss of this other activity for my children?
5. Would I suggest that you introduce this program to children under the age of 4 years? No.
6. Would I use the program to supplement things like play, story reading, craft, and firsthand experiences for children less than 4 years of age? No.
7. Would I recommend the use of the program with children aged 4-6 years, particularly if they have a disability or learning difficulty? Maybe, if as a parent I wasn’t capable of doing basic sight word drill, because that’s mainly what the program offers.
Note: While I haven't commented on Glenn and Janet Doman's work, most of my comments about 'Your Baby Can Read' could also be made about the materials and adaptations based on their book (here). Here's one example (click here).
'Stimulating Children's Imaginations' HERE
'What Motivates Children?' HERE
'Stifling Creativity' HERE
'Emergent Comprehension for Children Under Five' HERE
'10 Pointers for Developing Writers' HERE
'Deliberate Play' HERE
'The Importance of Simple Play' HERE
'Firsthand Experience, Literacy & learning' HERE
'Nurturing Creativity in Children' HERE
'Brain Development in Babies & Toddlers' HERE
'The Dangers of Television for Young Children' HERE
'When Do Children Start Writing?' HERE
'Reading With Children' HERE
'Is Phonics all we Need?' HERE
'Basic Literacy Support' HERE