I rarely turn the television on during the day, but occasionally I will flip to the noon news as I am making lunch in the kitchen. Yesterday, my flipping abruptly came to an end as I heard these words coming from a paid advertisement on a passing channel. “Your baby’s brain is making tens of thousands of connections per second. Your child will see the words, and hear the words, and while watching these videos, will connect the words and their meanings.” Ok, that was odd enough. But the child in the video looked to be about nine months old, tops!! Of course, they had me. I had to finish the commercial with my mouth gaping open as baby after baby responded to flash cards and “read” the words on them.
I am SO glad I didn’t see this commercial when my boys were infants. Imagine the pressure on a young mother who is trying her best to keep her kid diapered, fed, and happy, and then suddenly realizes she has missed the boat. She is actually supposed to be teaching her child to READ, as well??!!
Now, I’m not discounting the validity of this commercial, but I am asking myself…why?? Obviously these babies would not be reading if their parents hadn’t seen this infomercial. They would be playing with their toes, perhaps. Maybe even banging pots and pans together in the kitchen. I’ll go so far as to say one or two might be crawling down the hall with a strand of toilet paper streaming from the bathroom. But is that reason enough to stop them in their tracks and inundate them with letters and words?
Taking the time to teach a baby to read means that there is less time for that baby to explore his or her world. To make meaning out of the objects and people around him. To create her own connections between words and sounds and things. Do we really want to rewire a baby’s brain so that the written word supersedes explorative play?
In my experience, children become curious about words and word meanings around preschool age - - some not until much later. As homeschoolers, the great advantage for us is that we can take our time and our cues from our kids. Are they excited about learning to read at age four? Then by all means, introduce them to the concepts of letters and words. Time4Learning™ offers a fun and educational preschool curriculum for those kids who show the readiness to complete structured learning activities. Other kids may not be ready at all for formal learning until much later. That is perfectly fine too.
So, what do you think? Am I completely off the mark here?? Should I be regretting the fact that my boys weren’t both popping Cheerios and reciting flashcards in their high chairs? I’d love to know what you think…