When should we teach our children to read?

October 9, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 5 Comments

(authored by Bill Simons)

Can a child read at one or two years old? As crazy as it may seem, evidence points to a resounding yes. We only need to google “baby reading video” to find examples. But how young is too young. Glenn Doman, author of the popular book “How to Teach Your Baby to Read” tells us that we should start teaching our children to read when they are just infants. A month or two olds is prime time to begin delivering instruction.

Featured on the popular show 20/20, Mr. Doman showcased his technique with solid results. Children in the reading classes where in fact reading, and reading well. The three year olds were reading Dr. Suess books with fluency, while the five year olds where reading the newspaper. Doman tells us that visual acuity is not fully developed in most children until the age of two, making typical children’s books difficult to use. His technique is simple, much larger text is needed.

Doman argues that infancy is exactly the time that we should be tapping into innate reading ability. Up until about the age of three, the brain is creating new connections at an astounding rate, producing upwards to a quadrillion cell connections by age three. At about that time the early brain begins to shift focus, culling off connections which are not used or underutilized.

Many scientists today believe that the brain has critical periods for speech and language development. Research has shown that cats can be blinded by simply being kept in the dark when they are kittens. The eye does not mature like it should and those cells die off. Certain animals have been shown to have a critical period for imprinting on their mother, such as when ducks often come to follow a human as their mother.

This may also be true of children’s brains. UCLA’s Michael Phelps, a biophysicist and co-inventor of the PET scan tells us “If we teach our children early enough, it will affect the organization or ‘wiring,’ of their brains.” Phelps also notes that “Unfortunately, U.S. education does not take full advantage of this opportunity”. Psychiatrist Arnold Scheibel, former director of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute tells us that “the language centers of the cortex are not able to reach full maturity without proper stimulation”.

An area of great interest, reading is essential to the success of children in school and as adults. When consider the future of these children perhaps we should be considering much earlier interventions. 14 million people are illiterate in this country, and 63 percent of prison inmates can’t read. It obvious literacy has a great impact. Perhaps we should get to it a lot sooner! When are you going to teach your children to read?



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  1. I saw a commercial for My baby can read DVD on TV, one day, and it really caught my attention. The stories of those little babies, who started to read at six and nine months, are just amazing. I actually thought about buying this software for my 19 months old baby. But then I decided to try making these cards (the one that used on the video) by myself. I made them and I used them with my baby, but I think it doesn’t work the way expected it to be; after I show him the picture and the word which related to it, for several times, I show him the word and ask him what it is, he waits for me to show him the picture, and when he sees the picture, he will say the word for me. I don’t know, may be this process takes time, and I have to do this for longer periods until he master it. Or maybe I just didn’t apply the process correctly.
    Anyway, from my experience as a mother of three boys, I believe the best way to teach your kids how to read, is by reading for them every day. It worked with my six years old, who is a great reader now. I started to read for him when he was 12 months. There is many things you can do while reading to your child. For example you can points to the words to help your child notices that which words you are reading.
    When am I going to teach my children to read?
    Depending on the new researches that done in this topic, I would say we have to start as early as possible. But from my experience with my three kids, I would say it depend on the child. I believe each child is different, and their abilities and interest to learn are different as well. You could start with them as early as you can, and see if they like to do that or not. I remember when I started to read to my youngest child, at the time he was 9 months old. I realized that he wasn’t interested in reading at all; he would slide down from my lap and run away to play with his toys. I tried to read with him in my room, away from his toys, but still he wouldn’t sit in my lap for too long. After three month he started to change, he would join us when I read to his brothers, that when I noticed he is ready. I started to select some special books for him, and we read together when his brothers at school. Now I really enjoy when he brings a book and says to me” tory(story) time, tory time” . So yeah, I really think it worth trying.

    • Russina you have a good point. Trying to teach an active 2 year old to sit still for flash cards can be a challenge. In the book I referenced earlier, How to Teach Your Baby To Read, the author, Glenn Doman addresses this point directly. Doman encourages parents to begin showing there children words within the first few months of life. Yes, start teaching them words at 2 months old. Children from the period of birth (and earlier for some researchers) are purely intellectual, soaking everthing up like a sponge.

      Relying on everyone else for transportation, they will take and examine any piece of information you give them tangible or intangible. Although they obviously cannot express themselves to acknowledge learning, they are in fact learning. They are learning language and everything that comes with it.

      Another important point Doman mentions is that you absolutely, positively have to make the activity fun and games. When I did this activity with my son, I made it fun with animated motions, expressions and enthusiasm. All I would have to do is ask him if he would like to do some words today and he would run off in glee to my office and return with the basket.

      An interesting thing I noted recently is how other forms of communication influence reading. On a short video on MSNBC.com two parents, both speech pathologists, began signing with their child at birth. She is also shown a childs video on signing which has words and letters. The results are nothing short of amazing. Check out this link:

      If that link did not post correctly try this instead.

  2. Children should be exposed to books immediately and should learn how to read as soon as they can. Their brains are like sponges and absorb everything. They might not be able to completely understand it, but any type of stimulation will help with their development. The earlier they learn to read, the better off they will be in the long run.
    Parents need to take a more active role in encouraging their children to read and to help them understand what it is they are reading. Parents may start off with an active role, but as their child develops those reading skills, they will get to take a more passive role whereas the child takes on the active role. One thing I don’t understand, is how there are 8th graders at Dake Middle School who are reading at a 3rd grade level. Now, I don’t know their background and can’t say when they started to read, but I just don’t understand how they made it up the academic ladder with such a low reading level. How are they passing all their classes? Are teachers helping these kids out or just letting them slide by? What’s going to happen to them when they hit high school or the real world? Where were the parents this whole time?
    I agree with Russina in that reading can depend on the child, but as parents and teachers we should really try to encourage and motivate our children as early as possible.

  3. I think that the facts that Bill presented in his blog post are pretty astounding, and like Russina, I have seen the infomercials showing very young children reading off of flashcards on home made videos. While watching this with my wife (who is a Kindergarten teacher, with her Masters in Literacy), she pointed out one thing that I never noticed: the kids are not sounding out the words, but rather just repeating them from memory.
    In her classroom, the students are exposed to sight words, or a list of short words that they are able to memorize that cover the phonetical sounds that different letters make. As they memorize, the students make connections between the letter sounds and the words, and therefore learn the phonics that are so crucial to learning new words. Without the phonics, there is no “sounding out” and then what have the children really learned?
    As Elyse mentioned, parents are really crucial to a student’s success in the classroom. Without support from home, many students will not be able to achieve all that is possible, and as a result will start to fall behind. This creates the snowball effect which results in eighth grade students reading at a third grade level.
    I believe that as parents and teachers, we need to be a driving force in the lives of the children that we encounter, but we also need to remember that there needs to be time for children to be children. If at the age of two, parents are really pushing their children to read, I believe that the effects could theoretically be devastating. I know that when I was a senior in high school (and through some of college) I lost motivation because I had been learning what other people told me to for 12 years in a row. If this had started at 2 instead of 5, I would have had freshmanitis instead of senioritis! There is a fine line that needs to be balanced between not enough and too much, and as both Russina and Elyse said, it really depends on the child.

    • Bill you make a good point. The results are pretty astonding. As with many sight words, many words can be just “learned”. For many kids this presents a challenge, especially if they learn to read late.

      In his book How to Teach your Baby to Read, Doman references this point directly. Doman tells us not to worry about the alphabet. He says the 26 symbols which make up many more sounds will all be picked up as the child learns words. Nose is nose. There are no short vowel or long vowel sounds, no silent E to worry about, et cetera.

      Phonics are an excellent tool and should be part of any reading curicullum. With phonics alone however you can sometimes run into trouble where the kids can read and pronounce some amazing words but have trouble reading for any type of comprehension.

      One thing not mentioned in the original post is the emphasis that the book makes on the parent – child relationship. Parmount to the entire experience is that the the parent and child have fun with the activity. Reading is a game, something to get excited about and if the parent or parents involved are tired, preoccupied or just going through the motions, he suggests they simply wait until they can be all there.

      Another thing not mentioned was that on the 20/20 show also featured another of Domans books called How to Teach Your Baby Math. In it, children are taught quanity first, abstract symbols that represent quanity last. So three would acutually be * * * or three red stickers on a paper. Only later, after addition and subtraction have been introduced, are symbols like 3 introduced.

      The three year old students shown in clip could instantly recognize quanity from large posterboards randomly covered in red stickers with Rainman like accuracy. It was truly astonishing. The five year olds in the class would give answers to orally read number sentences immediately. What is 12 plus 6 minus 17 plus 5? Six, one quipped, immediately upon sentence end. But thats another story.

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