Reading Babies???

Photo of Braxton Hill taken by Angie Hill.


Why on earth would you teach your 18-month-old baby to read? You don’t teach someone to run before they can walk, so why teach someone to read before they can talk?

There is a commercial on my children’s favorite cartoon station for a learning program that claims it can teach any child to read. The commercial features a man showing an 18-month old flash cards with words on them like “foot.” The baby then points to her foot, demonstrating that she knows how to “read” that word. She can’t even talk. How can she “read”?

A doctor created the reading program for his daughter. But now it’s gone viral, penetrating every half-hour cartoon my children watch on this channel.

Seriously? So you teach your child to read before they are two. Then what? Do you force them into doing algebra by the time they are five? Are they speaking multiple languages at 10? Do they graduate from high school at 13? Enter college before they’ve hit puberty?

Don’t get me wrong I was ecstatic when my four-year-old read his first book a couple of months ago. He has now entered the exciting world of reading! A world I devote a lot of my time to. But the child is four, not 18 months.

I love my children. I want them to be smart. I want them to be successful. But I don’t want them to miss out on being children. There is a time and a season for all things.

Right now I want them to play in the mud looking for bugs. I want them to roll down the grassy hill in my back yard staining their knees. I want them to dump toys all over their bedroom floor in the name of fun. I even want them to pick their nose – as long as they don’t wipe boogers on my wall. That’s what kids do!

Sometimes I think we as parents worry that our children won’t be “smart” enough unless we invest in programs that push them intellectually. I think it’s important to encourage our children to learn and grow, but I don’t think we should force them to grow up too soon.

Personally I worry that if I shove learning down my kids’ throats I will prematurely catapult them from childhood. There will come a day when they are asked to turn in reading charts or meet reading-page quotas. For now we will have story time at our house on a regular basis, but I will do the reading.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natalie
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 07:51:14

    When searching for images for today’s blog post I ran across another blog that mentions the same reading program I am talking about. She pretty much mirrors my sentiments exactly. Check it out at :


  2. Amanda
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 14:04:00

    So funny– thought the same thing when that commercial came on today. I’m not opposed to kids reading, but these kids aren’t reading–they’re memorizing. The problem with that is that they don’t develop phonemic awareness–how to figure out individual sounds that make up a word. Fine until about 3rd grade when there are too many words to memorize and your kid has no idea how to decode words to figure out what they are. It’s a big problem in schools right now, and this program is only adding to the problem.

    It’s like parents who say their kid is “potty trained” at 18 mo., when in reality, they are taking them to the bathroom every 2 hours to avoid an accident. Unless your child tells you they need to go on their own, without prompting from you, then does it ON THEIR OWN, they are not potty trained.

    Can you tell I have issues? 😉


    • Natalie
      Apr 14, 2011 @ 20:41:15

      That’s awesome Amanda. I despise the commercial now. I agree with you on the phonics thing. It’s so important to learn letter sounds as a base for the rest of your life. Like you said, those kids are learning how to read, they are memorizing flash cards.


  3. Christie
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 15:12:35

    I won’t step on my soapbox on your blog, but I agree. In fact, none of my kids have known how to read before kindergarten. Not because they weren’t capable, but because I know they will pick it up later. I would rather they ride their bikes and build forts. All my kids LOVE to read (except Emma.) I have never coached or pressured, and have gone as far as to tell the teacher we will not send in timing sheets or reading logs. I just don’t believe in turning it into a chore.


    • Natalie
      Apr 14, 2011 @ 20:45:34

      Christie- I love that you refuse to do timing sheets or reading logs. I agree, you walk a fine line with those type of incentive programs. You want them to be excited about reading, but on the other hand you don’t want it to turn into a chore. I used to panic toward the end of the month when we didn’t have our preschool reading chart done. I’d end up reading 3 hours in one day to my boys to get it done. Well, we got to February and I didn’t get it done. It’s still on my fridge with 6 empty hearts to cross off. I actually like the reading chart idea, but I have decided not to freak out if we don’t get it done.


  4. Jaclyn
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 09:20:28

    I agree! There is a time and season for all things. Why rush a time that flies by so quickly? I think it is important that kids be kids. There is a lot to learn from digging for bugs and rolling down hills. There is a progression for all things, why skip steps in order to “get ahead?” It isn’t worth it. (Have you ever heard of kids who skipped crawling and went right to walking and then had issues and had to go back and learn how to crawl? And your friend is right with the potty training, I have seen this in action, it doesn’t work. It is painful for all involved.) Of course this is just my opinion, maybe such things really work out okay in the end (for a very small number of people I am guessing). But I think they come at a cost and that cost isn’t worth it to me and, most importantly, to my kids. I have not forced any type of learning on my kids. I choose to give them opportunities and follow their lead. And I think my kids are both pretty smart and that they will do great in school. : ) I want my kids to look back fondly at their childhood and remember all of the fun, silly, crazy and magnificent kid stuff they did, not that they could read by age 2 or got into college by age 12. BORING!!


  5. Trackback: Boogers 2011 Recap « Boogers on the Wall
  6. Trackback: Reading Babies??? Update – Your Baby Can’t Really Read « Boogers on the Wall

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