Are child development experts getting it wrong?

I just came across this Psychology Today blog by Richard Gentry, author of Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write — from Baby to Age 7.  He poses the question, “Are Commercial-Product Claims that Babies Can Read Overblown?”  He goes on:

Or are too many child development experts from prestigious universities getting it wrong?

There is a controversy brewing over the definition of reading and whether babies and toddlers can learn to read. Driven by negative reaction to some of the commercial products that claim to teach babies and toddlers to read, print media and major news reports on television have recently quoted child development experts who state emphatically that “the baby’s brain is not developed enough to read.” WAIT A MINUTE! Sit back and take a deep breath. It may be a very good thing for a pre-school age child to learn to read words and phrases before age three and it may be a bad thing to equate this remarkable accomplishment with “the brain of a parrot.” Show me a parrot that reads scores of flash cards with words and phrases through paired associate learning or operant conditioning! Reading word cards is not something trivial. When child development experts were asked if babies who pronounced the words or demonstrated actions to word cards such as “clap” or “arms up” were reading, many were emphatic: “No! The babies memorize cue cards. That’s not reading.” But automatic recognition of words, repetition, and memory are all aspects of proficient reading at any level. Joyful parent-child interaction helping the baby learn to read word cards is a good thing!

Read the whole thing, including the “What Does the Research Say?” section.  It’s nice to know that there are some experts who are willing to buck the establishment on this.

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About the author

Larry Sanger had written 163 articles for Larry Sanger Blog

I call myself an "Internet Knowledge Organizer." I started,,,, and Infobitt. I write about education and the Internet from a broadly philosophical point of view.

6 Responses to "Are child development experts getting it wrong?"
  1. Reply Tweets that mention Larry Sanger Blog » Are child development experts getting it wrong? -- December 15, 2010 15:10 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dr. Richard Gentry, Larry Sanger. Larry Sanger said: Thanks to Richard Gentry @RaiseReaders for taking a stand against child developmentalists, on baby reading: […]

  2. Reply LM's Mum December 16, 2010 12:16 pm

    It is interesting (and a bit annoying) that many experts simply take a default position: since there is no evidence, then it is not true:

    The claim is that there is no “window of opportunity” for early reading (the same way it is for language development) and that early reading does not improve long-term prospects.

    • Reply Larry Sanger December 16, 2010 13:53 pm

      I just exchanged some emails with Steven Novella this morning. Maybe we’ll get him to respond here on this blog, or he’ll review my essay on his.

  3. Reply LM's Mum December 16, 2010 15:42 pm

    Looking forward!

  4. Reply Sharon January 29, 2011 07:08 am

    I have read some of the things you have written and glanced at other articles. With that short overview, i think I can say that we are in the same camp.

    Have you ever read Glen Doman’s book, Teach Your Baby To Read? I encuorage you to read Doman’s other books on not only the methods to use in helping young ones to read, but about the nueral pathways that are stimulated and directed through cross-pattern crawling, ect. Reading is only a step in the high way. Doman also only promted gentle parental exposure as long as the child was having fun.
    If you haven’t read Doman’s research, I urge you to do so. His research is fascinating and put credednce to what you and I have experienced as parents of young readers.

    • Reply Larry Sanger February 3, 2011 13:39 pm

      Sharon, I have to admit that I have never actually read that particular book of Doman’s. I’ve skimmed it in the library and seen many summaries and engaged in many discussions of it, though, so I’m pretty familiar with the method. You might be interested to see my long essay which discusses Doman’s method and various others.

      No offense, but I am not aware that Doman (or anyone else) has actually done any scientific research about his early reading methods. The book you mention is a guidebook, right? Or are you referring to, for example, an article in a peer-reviewed journal that I happened not to know about?

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