When I was first inundated with commercials posters, videos, and talk shows promoting these programs promising to teach babies to read, I hoped, no I prayed, that this was just a passing fad like leg warmers or sea monkeys. The videos of little babies reading flashcards annoy me to no end. I know, I know…I proclaim to be an advocate of early literacy. So why am I so agitated by these baby reading programs?

OK, here’s the deal: I just think babies have more important stuff to learn. Exposing children to language and literacy in meaningful and relevant ways is what helps children become happy and effective readers; reading skills rarely come in a neatly packaged box tied with a bow.

The biggest problem I have with these programs is that I think they capitalize on a parent’s desire to do the right thing. Parents want to raise smart babies and most of what these programs promise can be provided for FREE. One of these programs cost as much as $200!!! A parent who provides a literacy rich environment can probably achieve the same (or better) results without having to spend enormous amounts of money. It’s like those credit repair companies who swear that they can repair your credit for the low cost of $199.99 but all they do is call your creditors, which you can do yourself for the low cost of FREE.

The first five years of a child’s life is a time of rapid brain growth and parents and teachers are right to take advantage of this period of wonder and amazement. But, what is the advantage of a baby who can read the word “dog” but can’t point to a dog in a book, who has never seen a real dog? I’m just saying that it is about BALANCE and EXPERIENCES. Really…what is the rush? Do we stand a 4 month old up on his feet in an effort to make him “walk”? Because surely if he walks at 4 months old, he will be the best walker in his class by the time he gets to kindergarten! Why do we have to rush children? Why do the wonders of infancy have to be punctuated with flashcards and DVDs?

Here are things that parents and early childhood educators can do to promote early literacy skills in young children

  • Talk to your child. Sounds simple but many parents don’t do it. Reading is nothing more than oral language written down so children need to have a solid sense of oral language. Talk about what is happening when you change her diaper. Describe all of the things you see on your walk. Talk. Talk. Talk.
  • Read to your child. I know that this sounds like another no brainer. But it’s a crucial step in learning to read. Reading to your child often is just part of the process. Read with emotion. Point to some of the words in the book to help children make the connection between written and spoken words. Choose books with interesting pictures, rhythmic texts, and predictable plots.
  • Siiiinnnnggg…..sing a song. Music has been proven to have a positive effect on the ability to learn. Music exposes children to language, patterns, and rhythms all of which are related to reading!
  • Visit the library or connect with friends to find new books. Look for books that are sturdy and durable (like board books) so that babies can touch, hold, and manipulate the books. Baby books can be expensive so visit the library or swap books with friends/neighbors!
  • Recognize that children learn from repetition so even though you should look for new books often, never abandon the favorites because children will want to hear them over and over and over. Early strides towards reading start with some imitation and memorization so read those favorites often. Your baby will let you know what their favorites are!
  • Point out words and letters in the environment when it is appropriate. If toddlers can recognize the McDonald’s logo then we know that they can recognize other letters. They learned the McDonald’s logo probably because they see it often or because the place has something that they enjoy. So use environmental print whenever the opportunity presents itself: the box of Cheerios on the breakfast table, the K on the K-Mart bag, headlines in the newspaper, etc… print is all around us and we don’t have to pay $200 for the fancy packaging!
  • Provide your child with rich and varied experiences. I suspect that at least part of the reason why these type of programs work is because they require parents to spend a certain amount of time providing planned experiences with their child. So, why not do that anyway without the fancy kit? Take a walk, join a play group, go to the zoo, blow bubbles, paint a picture, make a tent, do a puppet show, find wonders in the world!!!! Remember things that are old news to us (a lemon, a butterfly, an empty box) are NEW to babies and toddlers!!!!
  • Remember that children are rapidly growing in all areas of development. It is important to expose your child to activities that will promote the overall growth: Social Development (do you really want a child who can read but doesn’t know how to take turns or say please?), Physical Development (obesity is a huge problem among today’s children. Learning to navigate the environment is important for infants and toddlers), and Problem Solving Skills (so, your toddler can read but can’t figure out how to put together a three-piece puzzle) are important areas that parents and teachers must not ignore.

Do I think these teach your baby to read programs are harmful? I don’t know. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend TV for children under the age of two. Other studies link TV watching to disorders such as ADD and ADHD. I really don’t think that parents who purchase these type of programs are plopping their children in front of a TV just for the heck of it. I know that any parent who spends $200 on an infant reading program is doing so because they believe it will benefit their child. I don’t blame parents who want their parents to be ahead of the curve. As parents, we all want our children to excel. I am confidant that most of the money spent on these type of programs could be better spent doing things that really matter to your child… and I can guarantee that the things that matter most to your baby have nothing to do with flashcards and DVDs!

Reading is not a sprint. It’s a long distance marathon.

This post was originally posted by T. Wright on her blog Early Literacy Counts. Visit the blog here.

Tonya Wright has been in the field of early childhood education for twenty years. She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Phi Kappa Phi. She has a strong belief that exposing children to language and literacy at an early age will enhance their ability to become better students in school. It is her mission to expose parents and teachers to valuable early childhood activities in the hope of enriching the lives of as many children as she can.

© 2015, Shalena D.I.V.A. – Personal Branding| Content Marketing| Product Creation. All rights reserved.


  1. ShalenaDiva on September 27, 2010 at 10:34 am

    T. Wright, thank you for writing this piece. While I do all of those tips that you mentioned above with my son, I still find that the Your Baby Can Read Program is excellent for him. He loves to watch it and participate throughout the videos every single day. He prefers corny old Baby Can Read videos over flashy Elmo and I think that’s saying something. My son is now picking up books we’ve bought him on his own and I find him “reading them” and talking to them all by himself. I’m very proud of him. To the contrary, Your Baby Can Read taught me patience and stresses that the learning process takes time. I’ve only had first hand experience with YBCR, so that’s what I’m basing my opinion upon. I think it was a great investment, too.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Wakeelah Everfield via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I am pleased with the results of your baby can read as well. And people used to try and make me feel bad for not ‘only’ buying toys that taught my boys cognitive skills. Whatever, I am an advocate for education and will continue to be. From the cradle to the grave! 🙂

  5. Willie Ross via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm


  6. D J Jamie James via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    asks…you…how long does it take to learn…ABCDEFG? Yet, it takes public schools…YEARS to do? hahahahahah Come on now! I’ve already taught my daughter 2 languages…fluently; she knows how to use a computer; write; and she’s learning how to add. And, she’ll be 5 in 2 weeks. Oh, and you should see her “ballin” skills. ; )

    You wanna know what public school is good for….hangin out..learnin’ about sex…doin drugs and being rebellious! You know…stuff parents are afraid to teach, talk about or deal with!

  7. Jerry J Edwards Jr via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    We actually need to get back to Your Baby can Read, it is amazing the vocab our 2 year old has. A lot of people are impressed with Isaiah Alexander.

  8. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    @Wakeelah—You are a woman after my heart! I don’t buy those silly toys. All toys are educational that come into my house. I think people who force their children into hours of learning are doing them a disservice, but not the parents who simply want to give their kids a better chance by buying programs like your baby can read. I have a black male child and I want to give him all the advantages he can get. My baby is reading and counting. He also dabbles in Spanish and French by the age of two! I just think more parents should invest money in educational products instead of expensive clothes and Gucci sneakers.

  9. Bridget Cagle via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm


  10. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    @All—People have negative things to say about kids who can sing all of Beyonce’s and Lil’ Wayne’s songs, but I think that’s amazing that they can do that. I just think parents should refocus that energy into more positive things like reading.

  11. Bridget Cagle via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm


  12. Jerry J Edwards Jr via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I tell you Shalena, I already told you how you, I and my wife have a lot in common with thoughts, things we do, and the approach we take to certain things. Yes, educational and investing in college savings and about to start a regular investment account, and might dedicate a business to him and my godson. Expensive toys, clothes, sneakers, etc are FOOLISH! And those parents who do those things are FOOLISH, IMO!

  13. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    @Bridget—People have told me to make flash cards and I gave it some thought, but I decided against it. The flash cards from Your Baby Can Read are indestructible. They last for a long time. My son has taken them in the tub, outside, slept with them and all. Those things are still in tact. The dvd’s are also great, too. The books that come along with the program are fantastic. I just can’t see how a parent can go wrong buying it. You just have to go over the cards and dvd’s with your kids. Nowadays, my son picks up his books and reads them without my help. He’s showing five years old how to read. To me, that’s priceless!

  14. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    @Bridget—In all fairness though think making your own flash cards as the “do-it-yourself” approach while the Your Baby Can Read program is the “done for you” approach. I mean you still have to put in the time and effort with your child. You are doing the same thing the parent who made their flash cards are doing.

  15. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    @Jerry, yes, you, Aysha and me are alot alike0—SCARY (twilight zone music—LOL!) We all have to meet, including the boys!

  16. Jerry J Edwards Jr via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    That’s outstanding! We definitely have to step it up. He does grab his books and tries to read. Most people have the issue with the cost, but we will find that money for things we WANT in a heart beat. Some people find more value in depreciating things.

  17. Jerry J Edwards Jr via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Definintely! BWCC is tomorrow, have you made a decision! Aysha Edwards is coming! We have been talking about taking a day trip to Philly for a while, just haven’t done it yet. we’ll have to put it on the calendar.

  18. Jerry J Edwards Jr via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    It’s because of the timeframe in which we were born. Your’s just passed if I remember correctly.

  19. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    @Jerry, so true! That $199.00 was the best $199.00 I’ve spent for my son. When my son’s teachers tell me how advanced he is and how he knows more than 4 year-olds, that priceless in my book. But most of love, he loves to read and it makes me feel good fostering something he truly loves to do. He tried to read my O Magazines—LOL!

  20. Celeste Belford via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    my daughter just purchased the beatrix potter collection of ebay…well that’s quite a lot of reading…input for a child…without all these self help books…

  21. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    @Celeste—How old is your daughter?

  22. Bridget Cagle via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm


  23. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    @Bridget—I forgot you work in the daycare so you know first-hand! I really appreciate my son’s teachers and try to let them know by giving them gifts at the holidays. My son is very happy at his daycare and that’s important to me. I always say, ‘Thank you for taking care of my baby.” My son spends a considerable amount of time with these women and I want him to feel safe and comfortable. I commend them for the work they do because I couldn’t imagine dealing with all of those kids. I can barely deal with my rugrat at times—LOL! Hats off to you Bridget!

  24. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    @Reeny—Hey, lady! I was thinking of you recently! I’ll email you. But you’re right! I started with my son in the womb. I bought a program called baby Plus. I would strap it onto my belly and give him lessons. I would feel him wiggling in my belly during the lessons. People would laugh at me, but I didn’t care. He came out just like hoe they said: “Very alert, calm, and very attentive.”

  25. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    @John—I hope my sons turns out loving to read and be intelligent like you! Kids are amazing!

  26. Bridget Cagle via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you so much…you are right I have children from 7am till 8pm then there are two live in’s one not blood related but whom I took from a young mother at 9 months he is almost 3 now so that’s my life children

  27. John Evans via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    They sure are. And they always seem to know WAY more than you think they do…

  28. Deb Ram via Facebook on May 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Depends on which one. And how old the child. Some work some dont. If you keep at anything anyone can learn.

  29. Irene on May 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    You did the best thing for your son. Reading to your baby in the womb I feel is the first step in raising a smart person that will have potential, intelligence and a sense of how to make it out here in this world. Education is essential f…or every child especially our children of color. Parents do not take enough time to sit and teach their children, they are too quick to turn on that “Brain Box” (tv) to entertain the kid. They need to help the child learn to read, write and act respectfully. I know I’m asking for a lot but I feel our folks mainly need to realize education is so necessary to teach our children on the daily at school and most definitely at home. A little knowledge can open some many doors for good and encouraging things for our kids, not just for prisons, drugs or foolishness. Okay I’ll be quiet now.Lol

  30. John on May 8, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    And it also helps if they have God-given intelligence and/or talents. Me personally, my mom didn’t exactly say when she started with me, but she says that I’ve been saying some big words since I was about one or so (ex.: “Datsun” i…nstead of “car”, etc.). And she says that I’ve been reading from the likes of newspapers & encyclopedias (as well as counting to 100 and telling time from both digital and face clocks) since I was about three. And I was way ahead of my friends in school from pre-K to fourth grade in some ways.

    Bottom line: it starts with the parents working with their kids!!!See More

  31. Linda on May 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Anything that gives our children a headS up for their future is a good thing, as mothers we will always want the best for our children so you do what you feel is best for your child, you are the only one who would know that. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

  32. Constance on May 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    the fact that he’s doing well probably has more to with the fact that he has a well-read/well-spoken mother. research indicates that reading is better in children whose mothers use more words with them. your baby would probably be ok with…out any aids (of course still using books to read and engaging in conversation with him). if i had to choose a program for kids, i would focus mainly on phonics, which has fallen out of fashion, but is effective and can be implemented by most parents regardless of income level. just help the kid to recognize what various combinations of letters look and sound like, and it will go a long way.See More

    • ShalenaD.I.V.A on May 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      @Constance, I think that “Your Baby Can Read” does exactly what you said and it helps parents who are time strapped just like Deb Ram alluded to in her last post. Many parents mean well, but they don’t have that kind of time because some are working alot to support the family.

  33. Deb Ram on May 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    When my baby was 4. She had hooked on phonics. It worked. But i had to back to working 3 jobs. I could not put the time in with like i use to. She will be 23 this year. Doing well going on 4 years at the nursing home. And moving into her. Remember its what u do with the time not how much time.

  34. Sharon on May 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I am not sure about those reading aids. i am a bookwork, so are my children. i spoke in words when they were babies, they tried to emulate what i said or read for that matter. my youngest is nine years old in the third grade. her reading and spelling is seventh and still going up!

    • ShalenaD.I.V.A on May 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      I think the biggest thing that helps my son is the reinforcement at school and with my family. His school is doing a wonderful job with him. He comes home showing new things he’s learned. But I also make it a point to bring his books or fla…sh cards with him when I drop him off at family members’ homes. I tellt hem to just take the book out and go through it once with him or just observe him “reading” it to let my son know believe that EVERYBODY reads and that it’s normal so he won’t grow up thinking that only he reads.See More

  35. Jasamine on May 8, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    No, reading opens the world to learning, clothes not all designer stuff

  36. Sharon on May 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I hear you @ all the mother’s commenting on this post. When you make time for your child/children they will always reward you back! as we watch them grow it goes so fast. it is a wonderful thing when they show you what they are learning elsewhere.

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