“Your Baby Can Read” Costs Too Much

A mom friend told me about the “Your Baby Can Read” program and I was just wondering what you thought about it? It seems kind of sketchy to me…but at the same, I think, “Well, if I could teach my baby to read…wouldn’t that be something that would be good for her?” My daughter is 1 year old. Your candid thoughts and opinions would be appreciated. –Tina

Learning programs for infants and toddlers like “Your Baby Can Read” are aggressively marketed to new parents and appeal to our most sincere instincts – to do what is best for our children and give them every advantage in life. The children in the promotional videos look so happy to be reading words (words that some cannot even speak yet!), and their parents are so proud. We naturally wonder, “Those people are teaching their toddlers to read? Am I failing my child? Will she fall behind before she even starts kindergarten?”

Parents can relax. Early learning gimmicks have been recycled for years, yet not one has ever been scientifically proven to enhance a child’s learning abilities (or increase intelligence, for that matter.) The reality is that we harm our children when we control and push forward their development, rather than facilitating and letting it happen. Infants and toddlers need time to follow their natural curiosity and interests, which can only happen when they are engaged in uninterrupted, self-directed play. So, when we give a baby reading lessons — or any kind of instruction — that child pays a steep price. She is deprived of the vastly more important, age-appropriate activities that prepare a foundation for true reading comprehension and for the higher levels of brain function in the future.

We all are born with the desire to explore, experiment and discover. Babies will find cognitive learning opportunities in the simplest environments as they work to make sense of the world. They are eager to spend time imagining, reasoning, developing formulas and testing them. Why does the ball roll more quickly on the wooden floor than it does on the rug? What makes the clouds move? Does the plastic ring fit around this bottle top? These kinds of early experiences ignite the neural pathways that lead to a strong and active mind.

So, why are we so ready to interrupt and squander this time — this precious window of accelerated development in our child’s life — by showing him a flash card that directs him to clap like a performing seal? We are certainly not helping him to develop his intellectual potential, and the ‘head start’ we imagine will quickly disappear by second or third grade.

We need dreamers, big-picture thinkers and creative problem-solvers to inherit our world, not machines programmed to memorize and mimic.

Furthermore, while a program like “Your Baby Can Read“ may train a baby to recognize words, it cannot teach him to comprehend more than the most basic ones. A child is not ready to learn letters, numbers or words when he has not had the opportunity to build a sensory foundation for what these symbols represent. “Reading comprehension is built on mental networks formed throughout childhood from real experiences with the world,” writes educator and brain researcher Jane Healey, PH.D., in her book, Your Child’s Growing Mind.

The mechanics of reading are not difficult for the average child to learn when he is ready to do so. Reading comes easily, but only when the timing is right, and children who are naturally interested in reading at an early age will teach themselves. One of my three children became a self-taught reader when she was four years old. Her desire to read was a wildfire that could not be contained. She still loves books, creative writing and the literature camp she has chosen to attend the last three summers. Reading is one of her personalpassions, not something she does because it pleases her parents.

And our babies are driven to please their caregivers. Their basic survival depends upon our acceptance of them. We should use this power wisely and not abuse it. When we teach a baby something he is not choosing to learn on his own, we put him on course to ignore intrinsic motivation in favor of performing for others — namely us. The child distances himself further and further from his unique goals and passions. We must give our child unconditional acceptance and respond with the same amount of approval for all her accomplishments, big and small, to encourage her continued authenticity.

“When we instruct children in academic subjects at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short-term stress and long-term personality damage for no useful purpose. There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits, and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm,” warns Dr. David Elkind in Miseducation – Preschoolers at Risk.

As I sadly watched the testimonials from parents on the “Your Baby Can Read” site, I couldn’t help but wonder about the videos I wasn’t seeing: the ones where the children suddenly wake up years later and realize that their entire lives have been motivated by the need to please loved ones.

Then there are the children who do not succeed with the “Your Baby Can Read” program. They have disappointed their parents and find no joy in learning. Instead of learning naturally and joyously through play, they equate education with tension and failure…and they are only 3 years old.

Lastly, and most unfortunately, a baby who reads because it makes his parents happy is receiving the message — in his most important, intimate relationships — that his value is based on performance and accomplishments. The children I observed in the “Your Baby Can Read” videos were ecstatically soaking up the positive attention they were getting for being precocious readers. They seemed thrilled by the pride their parents exhibited. Do these parents respond enthusiastically when the child paints with water on the driveway? Do they show pride when the child buries his feet in the sand? Do they enjoy him when he picks up a ladybug or splashes in a mud puddle? The child can only wonder if he would be as appreciated and loved if he did not perform for his parents. His mud pies and skinned knees might not be enough.


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Wow – what an amazing and beautiful post…thank you for such an articulate and thoughtful response. I totally agree with you.

    1. I feel this review is somewhat unbalanced in its assessment of Doman’s work. The assumption that parents using this program will leave their children wondering if mud pies and skinned knees are not enough for their parents assumes that said parents don’t allow their children free play and/or take joy in their children being children. I also take exception to the statement that reading is easy for children once they are ready. This is true for some kids, but not for others. I have kids who read easily and others for whom reading is a nightmare. None of my children were introduced to reading before kindergarten. This article sorely lacks balance.

  2. Magdalena Palencia says:

    What I saw working on individual base in families homes is that usually parents that “help” or use the “Your baby can read” approach, want to apply it to every aspect of the childs life, depriving the child of learning in their own way and on their own time. On the other hand the urgency to please their parent sometimes makes it very difficult for the child to know their own tastes and preferences.
    It leaves the child with the mindset of, “can I make this as good as is expected,” creating a big insecurity in general.
    Each child learns at their own rhythm, everybody has the right to explore, make mistakes and try.
    It was by watching the skies that man got curious about the stars…

  3. I was mightily amused see that the Google ad that popped up for this post was for “Your Baby Can Read!”

    Great post and great blog! I plan to add a link to it from my new blog, “Moon Child,” which addresses similar topics from a similar perspective. (I am a Waldorf trained early childhood teacher.)


    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      HA! Yes, I think the at least half the people who link here from Google are only hoping to find out how much “Your Baby Can Read costs!”

      Thanks for your compliments and for linking to me! Let’s get the word out that these ridiculous learning gimmicks are a waste of our children’s precious time. Children deserve so much better. Please keep me posted about your blog…I’d like to check it out.


  4. Kim Lewis says:

    Janet, this is beautifully written again. I’m so enjoying your posts. And it’s fun to see some of my RIE and Waldorf friends here as well. Something I learned in one of my first child development courses was that the countries with the highest literacy rates were also the countries that delayed reading instruction the longest (age 7). Imagine in this country if ALL reading instruction were to cease until age 7. Plenty of companies would go out of business, and our children would share a collective sigh of relief.

  5. Janet, I think that your post isn’t completely fair. I did teach my little one to read but it so happens that it only took a minute portion of his day. About 30 minutes to be exact. In fact, I only started the whole process because I hoped that it would be an avenue to help him with speech as he got older. I was informed that he had a bifid uvula and that it could affect his speech. So naturally I rattled my mind as to how to best prepare for and be ready to either be able to assess it early or address it myself. I refused to think about my son having surgery at 2 or 3 or 4 yrs old if there was anyway for me to help it. Somehow, between my concern for that and the fact that I knew many people(some quite affluent) whose children were struggling with reading in kinder and first grade, I decided to try the YBCR figuring it really couldn’t hurt. And it hasn’t. My son spends from 7am-9pm awake with a 1 hr nap in between. From the age of 16 months to 20 months he watched about 20 minutes of YBCR on my lap while I enunciated and played/sang along. Once done, we would lay in bed together (co-sleep still) and flash cards/ pictures for about 7 min, sing and say our prayers and sleep. We would also read books such as Dr Seuss Abc, other rhyme stuff and really early on he demonstrated a love of books. He was not into tearing pages etc. He was quickly moving on to recognizing letters and playing with words and sounds. He would go and play with the magnetic alphabet and bring me books. He can play on his own for countless hours if I let him (which is really helpful since I work from home) Also, he is extremely social- not stuck at my hip at all. We only did the YBCR for about 4 months- months less than was directed by the company since after the first 2 videos his rate of learning increased. Now we allow him to see about 30-45 min total of TV per day. I let him watch 1 super why episode and either team oomizoomi or sid the science kid, since each episode is only about 20 min long. He saw these at his cousin’s house and asked to see them and I didn’t feel that it would be terrible. I am not fond of most shows out there anyway. I rather read books to him. My little one has quite an imagination and spends most of his day talking out and play out his stories. Whenever we are in a group setting or at the playground he is the most verbal. (has some articulation issues but I believe its still common for his age 2.6months). His vocabulary and understanding and ability to express himself is ahead of those his age and is closer to that of a 4 year old than a 3 yr old. His reading ability is beyond what you call the few memorized words. In fact he has phonics ability, some I’m sure intuited from commonly seen words, but other practiced. He would often times see a new word in his reading and sound out and the more complicated stuff he would ask me and If you want to say he “memorized” sounds of letters or blends…well isn’t that the base of our entire language? I don’t feel that I have been pushy, in fact I feel that I spend very little time “instructing”. Most of what we do together is more like play and since my main concern from the beginning has been his speech, I find myself praising him often for improved clarity of his speech more so than reading or doing something right. Yes, I have alphabet bingo games, blend mat games, phonics building games (which we play together most times) etc but again because he has shown interest. Of course he also has many puzzles, train tables, trains , cars, instruments, workbench,kitchen,paint, easel, trampoline, four dogs and a fish etc. all of which he plays with at his leisure and with a lot of imagination and words. He is definitely well rounded and I find it a little disappointing that your comments sound like you are judging parents based on an all or nothing assessment. I am not so much proud as I am happy that my son has a passion for books, whether it’s me reading to him or him trying to take over on a particular page that he might favor. He is never forced to pick a book and bring it to me to read. He just so happens to love it and I’m sad to say, many parents of 1st graders nowadays ( that I know anyway) struggle with the lack of interest their children show in books, in fact it pains them to have to force reading homework onto their 6 or 7 year olds. Parents all have their own reasons for what they do and as long as the long term goal of providing a well rounded experience for their child is the main objective and it’s done soundly without “pressure” to perform, I really don’t see where there could be any long lasting harm. That would suggest emotional and psychological abuse which seems again a bit extreme and one sided. Oh and by the way, I love it and we always show enthusiasm when my son stomps in the puddles, gets mud pies all over, makes pretend he is writing his name in the sand with a stick , moonslides across the sandbox and creates a sand storm, lays on the floor and spends 10 minutes letting a ladybug crawl on him and looking at it with a magnifying glass while chit chatting to himself laughing, tells funny jokes, repeats funny comedic sounds or phrases, brings the banana and says that he wants to eat the crescent, retells stories that we’ve read and adds his own twist, paints unrecognizable splashes of corresponding colors and names them after his favorite engines, runs, slides and jumps at the bouncy place, puts the ball into funnels or goes “fishing” at the children’s museum, drowns us with stories about sea lions he just saw at the aquarium, etc….Just to point out..there is the other side of the argument. I didn’t mean to go on and on but I was trying to hurry through my side and good thing I have to hurry along now. I do like a lot of what I read and see in other posts here and like everything, I like to read different views and opinions and I like to take from them what I feel will work for me and I strongly believe that there is more than just one way to parent. We hopefully all want our children to be well rounded, happy, independent and loving individuals and we can all stive to do so whatever our means, while keeping in mind that we need to follow our child’s needs and not our own. Again. I respect your point of view but I just did not feel it was a fair assessment, therefore my run ons…Thanks again though for providing a site that has a lot of good information, some of which I agree with a lot and some maybe just a little…

    1. Hi Sofia,

      Thank you for telling your story! It sounds like you are a wise and sensitive mother and that you have nurtured your son’s obvious intelligence and also his imagination. I can only hope that other users of products like “Your Baby Can Read” would know to use such care and restaint. It is understandable that your son’s bifid uvula would make it even more difficult for you to trust his natural cognitive development.

      The lesson from Magda Gerber that I am most grateful for is that we can trust all infants to be self-learners. This idea gave me so much relief! We don’t have to fill ‘blank spots’ in a baby’s brain. We don’t have to worry that we are not doing ‘enough’. Even in the most basic environment children seek out what they are ready to learn. If you haven’t read this POST about infant play, please do!

      Lack of trust is the reason parents believe that a baby who is examining every inch of his hands needs adult interaction and entertainment. It is the reason we feel the need to “teach” a baby anything. We do not value what a baby does on his own, because until we really learn to observe, it doesn’t look like much. The danger is that, not only are we interrupting learning that is of value to the child, because he chooses it, we are also giving the child the message that we do not trust his choices. What he values is not what we value for him. It is not ‘enough.’

      Infants and toddlers are extremely sensitive beings. They know when they are not entirely trusted to be the self-learners they can be.

      I am reminded of a parent in one of my classes whose 1-year-old son’s weight is so low that the mother worries constantly about his eating. He is being tested for possible medical conditions, but in the meantime, he does not eat well with his mother, but he does eat a snack with me in class. The mother told me that he sits with his older sister to eat sometimes. I encouraged her to allow him to do this, and get some distance from him in the next room. When the mother removed her nervous presence while he ate, and let go of the situation a little, the boy started eating.

      Our fears for our children, especially around learning, can create unnecessary expectation and stress in the relationship. Children have many years in school to be taught, and to “catch-up” if they lag in any skills. The first years are too sensitive and too important to interrupt with our well-meaning lessons. Infancy and toddlerhood are when self-confidence is developed. A child’s emotional development is far more important than walking, talking, reading or toilet training. Every normal person we know eventually does those things. And yet, we know many who lack emotional security and self-confidence. A parent’s trust is the key to that self-confidence.

      Sofia, I appreciate and respect your opinion, and thank you for sharing here.

      “An infant always learns. The less we interfere with the natural process of learning, the more we can observe how much infants learn all the time.”
      –Magda Gerber

  6. A very interesting post, Janet, thank you. This was exactly what I would say a year or two ago. I did not believe in early education and did not want to put too much educational pressure on my daughter. I wanted to follow her lead and to let her discover and explore through simple play and exposure. This never happened, however, as not all of us are born with innate desire to explore and experiment, as you write. Now at the age of 3.5, my daughter is severely speech and communication delayed and is possibly on the autistic spectrum. She has started a therapy, which as of today is the only research-proven method to help such kids (ABA). It is HEAVILY instructional and with quite a bit of tension at least initially. I never thought she would need this instruction, but, unfortunately, at this stage and under the circumstances this is the only chance of a “normal” life. And the earlier such intervention starts the better the outcome is.
    She has made quite a bit of progress in a short time. I keep thinking that, perhaps, if instead of expecting her to learn naturally through play, I had put more pressure on my daughter earlier on with more instruction, she would be further down the road now?
    I do agree entirely with your post and I think that most typically developing children will not need any additional instruction, this however, would not apply to all.

    1. Hi Yuliya,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I truly appreciate your perspective. And I am sorry for the difficulties you are having to deal with, and how stressful this must be for your family. I am not an autism expert, but at the age of 3.5 I believe your daughter can still make substantial progress. I also believe that those 3 years of trust you had in her will pay off in the long run, for the healthy relationship they have fostered between the two of you. Continuing to allow your daughter lots of free play time will be therapeutic, and help her process the tension. She sounds like she is in very good hands to me.:)

      Take good care, and please check in here again sometime. I would love to know how everything is going.

      1. Thank you very much for your very kind words, Janet. I have taken a lot of useful information from your blog. Thank you for all the good work. I will definitely keep checking!

  7. Hi Janet,

    This post was very well written and informative! I must admit that I was sucked into the commercials while I was pregnant. I was already preparing to order it and ran it through my hubby but him being my other half immediately rejected it! I was of course upset at first because at the time I didn’t see “any harm” it would cause if my son did or did not do the program.

    He, being the logical one in the family (as most men are), asked me why I need him to read at such a young age? Was it for my pride and something to brag about with other parents? Honestly, I think it was. Of course it’s every parents dream to have a “baby Einstein” or to excel in everything. Who wouldn’t want a baby who can read before their first birthday?

    As I look back on it now, it’s true about everything he said. It’s not natural for babies to be learning how to “read” at such a young age. The YBCR program is basically teaching them how to walk before they can crawl. They do not have the basics of reading. They do not understand phonics which is the foundation to reading so how can they possibly read? I think it’s just like Pavlov’s dog and bell experiment…it’s conditioned learning. Your baby has to sit in front of the tv 1 hour everyday watching the same thing over and over again – of course he will recognize the words that are being shown on the tv. But can you hand him/her a book and read it from front to back?

    Anyways, enough with my rant! This was a great post and I’ll be sure to show it to my hubby…guaranteed he’ll say “I told you so =]”.

    1. Hi Sheryll,

      You are a quick study, very wise and very honest, great qualities for a mom to have! It bodes well. Your hubby may have told you so, but he’s lucky to have you!

  8. I used to feel that the kids in the YBCR commercial were the sort of pushed, grilled, drilled, overschooled child who was completely miserable in life. I knew one of them personally, and her mom most certainly did seem to be that type.

    Then I met my son, Tristan. Rather, I watched his development. Damn, was my kid fussy. But he really liked this video, which we received from the aforementioned mom as a gift. He began to recognize it and get the biggest smile on his face when it was coming on. It’s kind of simple in concept, but it has music! And kids! So, for half an hour each day I would feed him one of the videos so that he’d allow me to put him down.

    Fast forward a whole bunch to age 1.5 through now, age 2.75. Several things come to mind: autism diagnosis, language delay, first real labels being letters, first real words being ones he also knew by sight, now talking up a storm although still delayed in proper usage of language, learning words at an alarming rate because he trusts letters where he does not trust how he hears, pleased with HIMSELF when he reads and when he feels knowledgeable and confident.

    This kid isn’t pushed, other than being in ABA therapy. His leisure time is filled with playgrounds and television, toys and snuggling. 🙂

  9. Teaching a child to read at such a young age is, practically speaking, a waste of time for both the teacher (the parent) and the child. I am an advocate for early reading, but for a reason: So that the child can open new directions of self-learning and exploration in the form of books. For this to be viable, the child must be able to comprehend.

    Memorizing words is not remotely close to comprehension, and time spent there is time taken away from other foundational learning that could be going on. It is inefficient to teach multiplication before addition, just as it is inefficient to teach reading before there is enough experience and context in the child’s brain to make use of it.

    Four years old is plenty old enough to learn how to read and benefit from it, but I have trouble imagining that a 1 or 2 year old would be ahead by “knowing” how to read. At that young age they should be 100% occupied with learning coordination and other physical skills, drawing, acting, building, social skills, creativity, etc. They don’t need the world of books yet.

  10. Living in a very academic, over-achieving community, I am always torn between over-teaching my children, and letting them be children. As I get further into the parenting years, I now try to err on the side of lots of play and free-time, with some learning moments built in to the play and exploration.

    One of my good teacher friends helped me see the light by saying “kids will have a lifetime of worksheets. Teach them with games and fun, they’ll get the worksheets later.”

    So it was with trepidation that I stopped working with my oldest son on his letters and words, and just simply focused on reading to him. We had ALWAYS spent a lot of time reading out loud and he loved it, and the more research I did, the more that I seemed to read that just reading to him would be all the reading instruction he would need.

    From age 4-5, we stopped doing formal reading instruction all together, apart from lots of reading, and some verbal games (in the car we would think of words that rhymed with “cat,” etc.). Some of his friends were being drilled, and were getting ahead of him, but I reigned my competitive nature in and reminded myself that it didn’t matter if he could read chapter books on the first day of kindergarten. He loved to be read TO, and that’s what our goal was.

    But a few months after he turned 5, in the summer before kindergarten, all of the sudden something clicked…and he started to read. He went from recognizing two or three words (cat, mom, and dad) to reading full sentences, and books. At first, I thought he was repeating books he had memorized. But all of the sudden, he was reading books we had checked out from the library and he was seeing for the first time. He had always “read” to himself in bed, but now he was ACTUALLY reading…and telling me the stories the next morning.

    By October, he was reading chapter books by himself.

    And yet…as delighted as I was, I kept ignoring the extra reading worksheets his teacher sent home, and kept focusing on reading out loud to him – a pleasurable time for both of us. Now we take turns with some of the reading, but I keep reading to him.

    So, it could just be that my son is a natural reader, but I’m convinced that reading out loud – a lot – WORKS, and that’s what we’re doing with our daughter.

  11. Thanks for your interesting post and food for thought. We considered the YBCR course but ultimately purchased the Glen Doman book How to Teach Your Baby to Read (we had How to Multiply Your Babies Intelligence from my mother-in-law). The key principle they exude is that it needs to be a fun experience for both baby and parent. The moment it stops being fun is the moment you stop doing it. I totally agree with your comment about the parent who is trying to gain bragging rights or show off their baby’s abilities. That is the totally wrong motivation. But if you wish to foster a sense of learning and open doors for your child I see no reason to shun these programs. It’s every parent’s choice and parents who are interested and are willing to dedicate some time to a program like this should totally go for it.

    I prefer the Doman program as it involves you and our baby together with flash cards and books and not watching videos or TV.

    My mother-in-law (God rest her soul) did a lot of the Doman program (How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence) with my wife almost 30 years ago. My wife was doing monkey bars and playing violin at age 2 and had a wonderful time and an incredible childhood with an extremely close bond with her mom.

    I was a twin, my mom loved to read and read to us all the time, and she had never heard of Glen Doman or How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence. We never did flash cards and I learned to read at age 5-6 in kindergarten. I didn’t walk until 13 months old and never was really good at the monkey bars.

    My wife and I both were in gifted/talented programs identified from the 2nd or 3rd grade, graduated top of our classes in our respective high schools and top two with 4.0 GPAs in college (where we met). She speaks two languages and I speak three (our parents only speak English- we learned foreign languages in high school/college). We are both socially minded and have a good circle of friends and have been very successful in careers at Fortune 50 companies.

    This to day, it should be every parent’s choice. One way is not guaranteed to give you better results than another. What you can do is instill a love of learning in your child, whether that is through an early reading program or some other method. We have an 8 month old daughter and if I have the opportunity to teach her to read or teach her a foreign language years before I could, why would I not want to give that to her, if she enjoys it and it’s fun for both of us?

    The point is, find some way to connect with your child and bond with them. Toys and TV are easy outs. If you love to paint, teach your child how to paint or draw. If you love golf, teach your child how to golf. just do it with passion and make it fun.

    Just my two cents!


    1. Thanks for your comment, Nick. I totally agree with “find some way to connect with your child and bond with them”, but I strongly believe that some modes of connecting are far more nurturing and confidence-building than others. The “I want to teach you something I think you should learn” type of connecting is far less gratifying and successful than “show me who you are, what you are working on and what you love to do… YOU are interesting to me and I appreciate you just as you are”. Honestly, which message would you rather hear from your loved ones?

      1. This post and discussion are very interesting, I’m finding lots of food for thought (thinking back to my own childhood and also thinking about my own sweet toddler). I do think lots and lots of self-directed play is essential… my siblings and I enjoyed that as children, and my husband and I try to provide plenty of space for that for our daughter. In thinking about it, though, I do also think it’s helpful to be introduced to a lot of different activities that maybe we as individuals wouldn’t pick or know to pick (at least initially) on our own, though not to have them forced on us. Re: words and reading, I read Glenn Doman’s book and I like his “stop before he/she wants to stop” idea… plus his idea that learning/instruction are a joy for kids, when done right, and that it’s not the same as testing. I think it’s very easy for us over-achieving (or misguided) adults to get it wrong, though, so your cautionary statements are apt.

  12. Dannyelle says:

    With my first daughter, I was enticed by the idea of YBCR. I started using YBCR when she was 3 months. We worked at it together for almost a year. These videos never taught her to read but she did learn to recognize some of the words and follow along. The videos use the whole word method. Children this young don’t “read” but recognize shapes. After the novelty of the videos wore off we stopped using them. I did try to use them with my second daughter but she wasn’t interested and I never pushed it. My oldest daughter is now in kindergarten and an avid reader. She is reading at a 2nd to 3rd grade level, maybe even higher. I don’t contribute her reading success to the videos, but like your article says she was always interested in reading and a very young age taught herself to read. I did spend time teaching her the letter sounds and did one beggining phonics lesson with her. She wasn’t interested in the “lesson” but continued to work at sounding out words on her own and before I knew it her reading skills took off. As a mother I worry that I have hindered her in some way and am interested in ways to help her rediscover herself, her confidence, and her own inner passions. I can’t unteach her to read, obviously. Since my oldest daughter was born I have had three other children and am now an early childhood education student. I am learning about the importance of naturalistic activities and plan to let my other three children develop their reading skills in their own time, while supporting a print-rich environment and of course reading to them often. But how do I foster my oldest daughters sense of self and self-worth beyond her academic skills? What can I do to help reverse any potential personality damage I inadvertedly may have caused? Please help!

  13. I wrote a post pretty similar to this one just yesterday, about why I don’t include number work in my toddler environment. So many parents are worried about their children “getting behind” and almost every family that tours our school asks about letters and numbers. I tell them almost exactly what you said: children need sensorial experience *first* so that the symbol actually *means* something to them. Then I always have to explain further :). If I recall correctly, Montessori called names the “crowning jewels” that complete the picture developed primarily by sensorial experience (as opposed to being the whole picture).
    Of course, Montessori education does offer materials in a scientific progression to isolate difficulty, so it’s not quite as free-wheeling as it seems you recommend. But I feel that it fits the spirit because a child is free to accept or refuse any lesson and can choose materials that appeal to him at any time, as well as having ample opportunity to work independently and without interruption.
    Here’s a link my post, if you’re interested: http://www.montessorimoments-dynamite.blogspot.com/2012/04/why-are-there-no-numbers.html

  14. LauraCLeighton says:

    Amen!! The first time I saw one of those commercials, I was like, “You have GOT to be kidding me!!” I’m sure my baby COULD read…but WHY?! Sheesh. I could read at age 4, too. But I was eager to learn, and probably wanted to imitate my older siblings. I cracked the code of my sister’s covert language (pig-latin, lol) when I was 4, too, and taught it to my 5-year-old best friend! haha…her mother never could figure it out!

  15. Its interesting to look back at this conversation that began almost 2 years ago – I just saw it because of what happened with YBCR. I know that parents have the best of intentions for their children, but loving, caring, and simplicity, with bedtime stories in the mix, are what is really needed, not money spent on products. Thanks for articulating this so well, Janet.

  16. Hi Janet
    This is an interesting read, thank you. It’s nice to remove some of that pressure I’m sure many people (myself included) feel to “teach” one’s baby!
    I have a question for you please. I know this blog was written in response to specific educational programmes for little ones, but it got me wondering about the act of reading books to one’s baby or toddler? I’ve been reading books to my now 4.5 month old multiple books every day for the last month or so, and prior to that once a day every day as part of the bedtime ritual. Would you say this is acceptable within the realm of respectful parenting? (He does get plenty of independent floor play time as well). I’ve heard so many great things about reading books to babies and toddlers. My baby looks like he is enjoying looking at the pictures as I read to him. I also like the idea of exposing him to a wider range of the English language than he would otherwise be exposed to if he just had to listen to me all day. Keen to hear your thoughts

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