“Infant Intelligentsia: Can Babies Learn to Read? And Should They?”
There’s a very good article about baby reading in the latest issue of Pacific Standard, which is what Miller-McClune Magazine is now called. (The magazine is pretty cool–it was described to me as the Pacific Coast version of The Atlantic.)
It starts as follows:
THE VIDEO CLIP [refers to this] on Larry Sanger’s website shows the cofounder of Wikipedia looking both scholarly and paternal with his owlish glasses, thinning pate, open book, and lapful of chubby-cheeked 3-year-old. Sanger’s son is gazing hard at the book pages and pronouncing words with the charming r-lessness of a toddler: “Congwess shall make no waw wespecting an establishment of wewigion or pwohibiting the fwee exewcise theweof or abwidging the fweedom of speech or of the pwess…” It’s not clear whether the boy is working toward a doctorate, like his dad’s, or training to be our future pwesident. But it is stunningly obvious that the boy is sight-reading the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at an age when most tots can’t tell an a from a b. When an influential philanthropist viewed the video, says Sanger, “he was gobsmacked.”
True, the Sanger child inherited both the genes and home-schooling attention of a high-tech icon. But YouTube now overflows with videos of tiny tykes reading words off of book pages, flash cards, and computer screens. And these images have stirred a Battle of the Experts flinging epithets like “witch hunt” and “snake oil.” Are the munchkin-voiced 2- and 3-year-olds actually reading those multisyllabic words? Or have they merely associated sights of certain words with their sounds? Is a baby’s brain even capable of decoding words and extracting meaning? And if it can, should we program it this way, this early? Or should we channel its effervescing language ability in other directions?
A balanced overview–a good place for open-minded skeptics to start.
About the author
I call myself an "Internet Knowledge Organizer." I started Wikipedia.org, Citizendium.org, and WatchKnowLearn.org, and ReadingBear.org. I write about education and the Internet from a broadly philosophical point of view.