4-year-old reading philosophy textbook (and Elkind's "Miseducation")

Here's H. reading a random page from Jones' History of Western Philosophy. Recorded last Nov. when he was 4 years, 5 months.


A few comments about this. First, obviously, he must understand very little of this text. He seems intrigued by books he can't understand, like the philosophy books on the shelves in my office, but he doesn't get them down often. If I recall correctly, I just noticed him on the floor of my office, probably after his nap, getting out a philosophy book, and my videocam was on the bookshelf, so I just grabbed it and made this video. I think this establishes that he has mastered the phonics of English pretty well -- so, again, this is something little kids are capable of being taught to do. But it is interesting to me that he misread "psychology" as "physiology."  Clearly, he's seeing a long, difficult word he has rarely seen ("psychology"), and matched it up by shape to a word he has seen only maybe a few more times (he might have seen the word "physiology" in one or two of our books about the human body).  But he's capable of using phonics to correct his "whole word" reading.

If you want to know how we got to this point, see How and Why I Taught My Toddler to Read.


Preschooler (H.) reading from David Elkind's Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk yesterday (Dec. 28):

The Today Show's takedown of Your Baby Can Read ridiculously biased

This is a review of a review.  Last November 1, the Today Show did a segment about Your Baby Can Read, and that segment is now one of the top results for the Google searches for "your baby can read".  Unlike most of the Today Show's viewers, and apparently unlike Matt Lauer and his team, I actually know something about Your Baby Can Read and the baby reading phenomenon.  We used it with success and I've written a 140-page essay on our experience and the phenomenon in general.  I found the segment to be amazingly biased, and so I want to help set the record straight.

Here's a blow-by-blow response.

0:32 "And that's the promise: that if you buy this program, your baby, as young as three months old, can learn to read."  Of course, nobody promises or believes that a three-month-old can read.  Three months is the age at which the program can begin to be used.

0:39 "This morning our Today investigation goes after the truth."  Going after the truth involves allowing both (or all relevant) sides of an issue to be fully and fairly explored, within the time constraints.  That is not at all what the Today segment did.  It was very much one-sided, and quite unfair when explaining the other side.

1:29 "But she says it didn't teach her daughter anything."  Questions for Today and Ms. Torres: for how long did the little girl watch the show?  And what age is she now?  Do the Today Show and Ms. Torres realize that results aren't (and aren't supposed to be) instantaneous?

1:51 "[Interviewer:] Are those babies reading?  [Nonie Lesaux:] No."  The expert goes on to explain that the babies have simply memorized words.  That's true, but later, I gather from those who have reported about their use of the program, some users of this program are able to decode other words, a fact that the Today Show later mentions only to dismiss without a hearing.  This is unreasonable, just as it would be unreasonable to say of a five-year-old that she is "not reading" because she has merely memorized her first words.  She can say out loud those words, and will soon be reading many more; so she has taken her first steps in the process of learning to read.  This is also true of the kids who use YBCR (for long enough).  And what neither the expert nor the Today Show admit is that by the time they are out of babyhood, many former users of YBCR are reading quite well, thanks very much.

2:03 "In fact, we spoke with ten child development experts from the country's top universities and organizations, and the message was universal: this isn't reading, it's just memorization."  Has a single one of the experts that Today interviewed actually sat down with children whose parents claimed their 18-month-old was reading phonetically, i.e., could decode words they hadn't seen before?  My guess is that the answer is "no."

They wouldn't want to, I guess, because doing so would upset their world view; so much of their reading research rests on the assumption that children aren't "ready" to begin learning to read until age five or six.  The notion that children can actually decode, i.e., really sound out unfamiliar words or even read them fluently, is too outrageous to the experts.  But the fact of the matter is that many children who use YBCR and some other similar tools and methods can do this.  This fact has been known -- to a few -- since the 1960s if not before that.  Both these experts as well as the Today Show do society a great disservice by simply denying a fact that can be established quite easily.

It is a fact that some children who use YBCR and similar tools (but how many? That I admit I don't know, and future studies should shed light on that) can and do decode new words while they are just one year old -- many more are reading by age two.  This is not a matter of opinion, subject to theoretical debate.  The claim is clear enough, and either it's true or it isn't; and there is plenty of evidence that it is true.  Those experts do themselves and their institutions a disservice by either knowingly denying this fact or else being ignorant of it yet pretending to be able to speak on the question authoritatively.

2:23 "[Interviewer:] Is there any evidence that even learning to memorize, at a young age, makes you a better reader later?  [Karen Hopkins:] No evidence at all -- that learning to memorize images of words can make you a better reader."  I find the formulation of the claim here interesting: it is in terms of can, or what is possible.  Well, clearly it is possible that learning to memorize words at a young age makes a child a better reader later on, because some little memorizers are able to decode new words some months later.  So the answer to the interviewer's question is: yes, there are plenty of instances where children who learned to memorize words at a young age soon became better readers later, because within months they were able to decode unfamiliar words.  But, of course, if you don't know, or are willing to deny, that some toddlers can decode unfamiliar words, then you can rest undisturbed in your views about their capabilities.

2:33 "In fact, most experts say most children don't even have the brain development to read until four or five years old."  Yes, that's what most experts say, and this is the theoretical situation that perhaps best explains why those experts are denying the phenomenon of phonetic decoding among toddlers: it's not possible.  It couldn't happen, certainly not on a mass scale and definitely not as a result of using some mere product.

How often do we see this in academe -- where some experts deny facts that are staring them in the face simply because the facts don't fit with their cherished assumptions?  Too often.

2:39 "[Maryanne Wolf:] I know not of one single study in which anyone says that children who learn to read before five do better later on. I'm a reading expert. I know not one single study." I was delighted to receive an email from Dr. Wolf the other day, and she seems to be a nice lady, and I don't want to offend her; but this remark is just incorrect, and if she simply thought about it, she would realize that it is.  As a reading expert, surely she knows that Dolores Durkin did some pioneering studies back in the 1950s and 60s, published in book form under the title Children Who Read Early: Two Longitudinal Studies, that showed that some children who learned to read before Kindergarten were still doing better than their peers, and in some cases increasing their advantage, by third grade and sixth grade.  There have in fact been quite a few studies of what are called precocious readers, and surely Dr. Wolf knows this.  The studies are almost unequivocal in support of the proposition that children who learn to read at the normal age do not catch up two, three, or even six years later with precocious readers, even controlling for intelligence and socioeconomic background.  There was an excellent review article of this research recently, "Precocious Readers: Past, Present, and Future," which appeared in 2006 in the Journal for the Education of the Gifted.

Now, perhaps Dr. Wolf misspoke and what she meant to say was that she knew of not a single study in which anyone says that children who learn to read before age three do better academically later on.  Now that I would have to agree with.

But -- and this is an important point -- there have been no studies on that question at all. It is an open question.  So, no studies have established that other kids "catch up" later on, either.  The question has not been studied, period. But, given the precocious reader research, it's reasonable to believe that those who are already reading at an advanced level by age 3 (i.e., the youngest of the precocious reader groups studied so far) will be even more advanced later on.  Why would you want to deny this, and so forcefully?

4:00 Interviewer lists the institutions that their criticals experts are affiliated with, then says: "they say your program is not only misleading, but it's false. [Titzer:] Well, they're all wrong. [Interviewer:] You're saying they're all wrong. [Titzer:] Yes, I'm saying they're all wrong."  Out of all the time Titzer was being taped, this is what they lead with?  First, the interviewer asks a nonsensical question: the program isn't misleading or false, if anything it would be claims about the program's effectiveness that would be misleading or false.  And when confronted with a vague, blanket declaration that his program is misleading and false, what is Dr. Titzer supposed to say? In short, this is unfair treatment.

4:28 "While he [Titzer] admits that it all starts as memorization, he says it leads to reading."  Right.  And does the Today Show allow Dr. Titzer to bring on anyone to help establish that this is at least possible, that it has happened in a few cases at least?  No.  They don't even do that.  And that omission is probably the most biasing flaw in the program.  It would have been easy for them to do; I heard, in fact, that they had someone lined up, and then the Today Show then pulled the plug on the interview.  But actually showing a child reading new words on-camera would have gone contrary to their whole line, and would directly show to be possible what the experts said was impossible.  That must be why they pulled the plug on the interview.

5:22 "But much of the research he cites for his program seems to be based on his own daughter using it."   This is not just a low blow, it's nonsensical -- it's poor writing.  Of course Dr. Titzer doesn't cite any "research" that is "based on his own daughter"; unless I'm mistaken, there is no research per se that is based on his daughter using the program.  What the Today Show evidently meant to say, but did not, was that Dr. Titzer's grounds for thinking the program works was merely that it worked with his own daughter.  If that is the point, it is still ridiculous on its face, because the program just got done saying that he could produce excellent customer satisfaction surveys.  In fact, Dr. Titzer has told me that his company has received "thousands" of communications from very satisfied customers, with parents reporting that their children had learned to read using the program.  So if the implication is that Dr. Titzer rests his claims about the effectiveness of the program just on his own daughter's success with it, why wouldn't they also say at least that he rests his claims on the success of the program with his customers?

What follows then are some accusatory claims and quotations from a deeply unsympathetic, "gotcha" interview with Dr. Titzer that amount to a blatant attempt to discredit him and assert that he is merely greedy and dishonest.  I really don't have the patience to take this apart; it all rests on the assumption that YBCR does not work, which is a claim the Today Show makes simply based on the assertions of experts that it could not work, and without any examination of the many actual cases of small children who are decoding new words.

Near the end there comes this aside:

6:24 "Experts say this product can actually be harmful because it forces your baby to watch all those DVDs -- too much TV time.  Matt, they say the best way to teach your kids is free: you just talk to them, you interact with them, you sing with them, you play with them, and they'll learn just as well as they can, or better, than this program."  What the Today Show does not say is that the programs are short, and that even if you follow Dr. Titzer's advice, watching the program twice a day, that still adds up to something like 40 minutes.  (We watched just once a day, and not every day.)  Considering the amount of time that many kids unfortunately are exposed to television, that's not much.  The claim here is also very tendentious in that it ignores that possibility that watching YBCR might actually cause your child to learn to read.  If it has that effect, then it is just false to say that talking, interacting, singing, and playing with your children will teach them as well the program can; no doubt children do learn a lot in those ways, but they don't typically learn to read from those activities.  Besides, who can really, credibly claim that children who use YBCR and similar programs don't play or talk with their parents?  The contrary suggestion is frankly ridiculous.

Saying the children are "forced"  is also misleading and wrong: like Glenn Doman, Dr. Titzer states very clearly that the program should not be shown to a resisting child.  If the child indicates he isn't interested, then he shouldn't be shown the program.  No forcing should be going on.  Speaking from our own experience, when my boy was watching the program for 3-4 months around his second birthday, he loved it to pieces and often demanded to see it.  No forcing there.

A lot of the points the Today Show brings up are discussed in great detail in my essay.  In Part 2, see:

  • Section 1 on whether it is possible to teach children to sound out new words at an early age.
  • Section 2 on reactions to the sales hype.
  • Section 5 on whether using methods like YBCR constitutes "pressuring" kids.
  • Section 7 on the too-much-video, too-early objection.
  • Section 8 on the claim that creative free play is superior to reading as a teaching method.
  • Section 12 on the question of whether early reading has long-term advantages.

See also Part 1, Section 4 for my own take on Your Baby Can Read, which is supportive, but not uncritically positive.

Kindle Store version of essay available (for those who need it)

At least one person said she wanted to read my essay on her Kindle, but could not figure out how to get it. I'm pretty sure she could download it from her desktop and email it to her Kindle, but for those who want it on their handheld devices and can't be bothered to figure such things out, you can give $2.99 to Amazon (and me--it was the minimum I could charge without giving most of the proceeds to Amazon) for a copy.  The formatting is not as good as the PDF, in my opinion.  But if you want it, here it is:

How and Why I Taught My Toddler to Read

By the way, is there any interest in my making this available in print book version?  I will do so if there is.  Please let me know.  If nobody asks for such a version, I won't make one.

Does reading count as direct instruction?

I have a provocative question for the teachers and educational theorists out there: does reading count as direct instruction?  I ask because, if it does, then there is surely nothing wrong with direct instruction, per se.

I think it is plausible to call it instruction, anyway.  The basic difference between reading a book, for example, and listening to a lecture is that the book is written and the lecture is spoken.  Why should we deny the word "instruction" to reading when a person reads in order to learn, or be instructed, about a subject?

And when a book instructs you that X, you are, surely, being directly instructed that X.

Therefore, reading is direct instruction, and since copious reading of increasingly difficult, important books is the very backbone of liberal arts education, direct instruction (in the form of reading) is not just a good idea, it's an absolutely necessary part of getting a complete liberal arts education.

What's wrong with that argument?

Review: "Your Baby Can Read"

Here is my review of the Your Baby Can Read videos, as posted on Amazon.com.

Many people have found that Your Baby Can Read works, especially if it is used as part of a larger literacy program that includes plenty of reading to the child.  I found that it helped quite a bit with my first child.  Now, at age 4.5, he is able to decode my college philosophy books, and we regularly read and appreciate books like Charlotte's Web and, recently, Old Yeller.

I have found over and over again that the critics of YBCR are people who think they know about how babies learn to read, but really do not.  By contrast, I, and the many parents I talk to who have used YBCR and other programs designed to teach babies to read, live every day with the results.  For us, it is not speculation.  We (many of us) see daily evidence that our kids are learning more than we knew they could learn.  You can read more about my story, including how we used YBCR, at larrysanger (dot) org (slash) reading (dot) html.

Since there are many reviews about this already, in the rest, I will mainly answer a few charges made about this program.  But first let me say that I'm giving this five stars because it actually works--or it can work, especially with other literacy support.

"It's boring": well, it's not as fancy as your standard Disney Channel or PBS Kids fare.  If your family is used to looking at that stuff, it's likely that you'll find YBCR boring, and your kids might too.  But if you're like our family and you basically don't watch TV except for some DVDs, chances are your kid will find that this is great.  For what it's worth, our little boy started watching this at 22 months and absolutely adored it, and demanded to see it daily (often more often, but we didn't let him) for a few months.  He thought it was great fun.

"I don't like the advertising": you're being asked to review the product, not the advertising.  I happen to agree that some of the advertising is obnoxious and over-the-top.  But the product is not.  In fact, the product itself is quite modest and unassuming.

"This is just a whole word program": sadly, you're right, for the most part.  There is some phonics material at the end of each disk, but not much.  And as much as I agree that this is a count against it, you can't ignore the fact that the program works, as far as it goes.  In my opinion, it's just important to supplement the program with phonics later on, that's all.  YBCR can serve as a nice leg up.  Moreover, I should point out that there are plenty of parents who report that their children have learned to read phonetically using just YBCR and without phonics "intervention."  That's not what I personally recommend, but I don't doubt that what they say can be done.

"My kid just learned the words in the video, and that's not many": well, yeah.  Did you really think that a program that is marketed to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers would, all by itself, cause such small tykes to read more than that?  On the other hand, isn't it amazing that they are able to read that much?  And, more to the point, if this is absolutely all that you do to support your child's literacy, then I would agree that your child will probably not learn to read.  You need to go farther.  It helps a lot to read boatloads to your child, holding your fingers under the words as you read them.  Doing phonics flashcards or some other little kid-accessible phonics program is also a good follow-up.  Playing with refrigerator magnets is a good idea.  But anyway, the point is that if you believe that simply plopping your child in front of a DVD, and doing little else to develop his literacy, will somehow cause him to read, then your problem is not really so much that you believe false advertising, your problem is that you misunderstood the advertising, the lengthy instructions to parents, and so forth.

YBCR was a great introduction to reading for our boy.  This product is getting a lot of attention for very good reason--not just because of the advertising.  Go to YouTube and search for videos of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers reading.  If you find out what those people did, you'll get a better, more realistic idea of what a tool like YBCR can do for you.

Update about the boys

Here is a "brain dump" about what I've been doing with my little boys, ages 4.5 and 2 months.  I will refer to them as H. (the older) and E. (the younger).H's letter to Santa

H's biggest accomplishment, recently, has been finally to learn to write not only all of his numbers, but all of his capital letters as well.  Learning the numbers has made it a lot easier to go through a math workbook (Singapore Kindergarten Math B).  But he still isn't that excited about math, so we don't make quick progress with it -- I'm not forcing him to do it, I'm just asking if he wants to. If there was any doubt that he has learned to write, well, a letter to Santa proved it.  I had to sit with him, and give him some hints (mostly, asking leading questions) about spelling, but it was 90% H sounding things out.  He made a list and didn't spend too much time on the polite pleasantries, but hopefully Santa won't mind too much.

The next day he got a "Thank You" note card out of my desk and was busy scribbling away on it.  Without my help, it wasn't exactly perfect, but I was impressed anyway.

For bedtime reading, we have been reading Old Yeller lately, and have only 40-50 pages to go there.  We also started Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which reminds me once again about just what a difference a year, or even six months, can make.  We tried out Charlie about six months ago, and even though it definitely seemed within his abilities, he wasn't interested in it.  Then a few days ago, we started watching the movie (still haven't finished doing that -- the superior Gene Wilder version), and then suddenly the book seemed really cool.

We got Lollipop Logic today in the mail, and H did six pages in a row, he was so excited about it.  (He has seen my logic books all collected up on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in my office, and asked me for a logic presentation, which I made, so he has decided he is interested in logic.)

Also, we're doing Rosetta Stone Latin, we're probably an hour into it or so, but split over a half-dozen sessions.  I had the old Rosetta Stone program (Russian), and the new version absolutely kicks the old one's butt.  It's a very kid-friendly program.  I don't know if H. is going to have the motivation to stick with it -- I hope so.

Of course we're continuing to do various other stuff, reading a whole variety of books.  Recently finished several books about Greek mythology and ancient history.  (Usborne, the book publisher, is absolutely wonderful, they make loads of different topics, and classics, accessible to kids.)  I know this all must sound very hard-core, but if he isn't saying "yes" to a book, I'm not reading it to him.  So even if he occasionally takes long math breaks, that's OK, he's still learning huge amounts.  But if we had not done various presentations and read various simpler treatments of topics in advance, he wouldn't be able to handle this now.

I'm sure I could go on, but that's enough for H for now.  OK, one other thing -- we got him a cheap digital camera.  He's been learning about that, and he can even upload the pix.

As to baby E., well, I was surprised that even shortly after birth, I was able to lie down next to him and hold the iPad a foot away from his eyes or so, and show him various flashcard-style presentations, and he ate it up.  He pays close attention for five or ten minutes...after that, I stop whether he's flagging or not.  I'm not going in any sort of systematic order through the various card sets we've bought, though I wonder if we should be.  Then starting about two weeks ago he started cooing, especially at this set about cats.  E. is quite a bit more interactive than H. was as a baby.

I also did this: I took my digital camera around the house and took pictures of all objects that I thought were familiar to E.  Even pictures of Desitin, the changing table, the trash can, etc.  Then I simply group the pix together into logical groupings, put then in a folder, and import them into a PowerPoint slideshow.  Putting names on the pix is easy.  (To make it fast enough to work with, I have to reduce the file size, which ppt does automatically if you know how to ask it.)  So I've sat E. in front of the computer, 2-3 feet away from the screen, and shown him these presentations.  He likes them, too.  H. likes them even more.  I made a presentation of H. illustrating various emotions, too.  This was lots of fun.

I can't wait until we have written the software that will make it possible to highlight the parts of words as they are being read -- we'll make it possible for you to match up parts of a word to different points in a waveform.  The goal is to do this matching automatically, thus allowing people to match digital books with audio books, so the currently-being-read syllable is always highlighted.  Anyway, more on that later.

Of course, I'm reading E. some actual books, but frankly, the content of the books we read isn't that different from iPad apps.  But we'll be doing more of that as he gets better at sitting upright in my lap and staring in the direction of a book.

Haven't started Your Baby Can Read yet.  I don't think he'd be able to see our small TV screen.  When are babies able to focus 15 feet away?

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.

Could you teach your baby to read?

Is your reaction, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is"?  I claim that you can teach your baby, toddler, or preschooler to read--probably.  What do you say to that?

I was thinking about how my essay on baby reading hardly made a ripple on its first day out in the world, despite being announced pretty far and wide.  There was no negative reaction; but there was hardly any positive reaction.  There was essentially no reaction.  I'm not sure why that might be, but my best guess is that people don't believe that there's anything to it, not enough to investigate it much.  To be sure, a 140-page essay is a bit much to expect an instant reaction to, but what about the video, the flash cards, and the presentations?  Nothing!  My explanation is that people simply don't believe that there's enough "to" claims like "your baby can read" to warrant much caring, much less investigation.

Let me make several claims, each of which I can back up with a lot of argumentation:

1. It's not just me.  Lots of people have done this.  You didn't know that?  Read my essay, especially Part 2, and you'll see.

2. It's really reading.  By age 2 or 3, lots and lots of kids who start out with Your Baby Can Read (YBCR) and the Glenn Doman method and similar methods are able to sound out new words, and understand age-appropriate books.  By the time they enter first grade, those kids read well above grade level.

3. And no, it's not because they're geniuses.  I'm not a genius, and I'm sure my little boy isn't either.  Lots of more or less average people have taught their little kids to read, and long before I found out about it.

4. I didn't pressure my little boy into reading.  If you think that's the only way to teach a tiny tot how to read, you're just mistaken!

5. It's not impossibly difficult or expensive.  Yes, I work from home and have some free time to help teach my little boy, but with the free materials out there now, and as the price of YBCR has come down, basically, you just have to spend some time doing this.  With the videos, or with looking at some powerpoint presentations or my flash cards...well, sure, it takes some time, and probably some money...but it's not a full-time job or anything.  Think of it as a side-hobby.  You could get deeply into it, the way I have, but you could have a nicely positive effect without doing so, I'm very sure.

OK, folks, what else can I say that will make you take this whole opportunity seriously?

Essay on Baby Reading

I started teaching my little boy to read beginning at 22 months, and by age four, he was decoding text (reading, in that sense) quite fluently at the sixth grade level, or above.

I've discovered that there isn't a lot written about the subject of baby reading.  So I have written a 45,000-word essay on the subject:

How and Why I Taught My Toddler to Read
(the PDF is best)

I've worked on this for two years, off and on.  It is formatted as a 140-page book, which I'm presenting to the public free, under a Creative Commons (CC-by-nc-nd) license.  Here is a video of my boy reading to me when he was two, then three, then four.  At age 3 years, 10 months, he read the First Amendment of the Constitution (in the video at 2:47):

How'd we do it? We used a variety of methods: I read many books to him while pointing to the words, I showed him over 1,000 home-made flashcards (careful: 122 MB zip file) arranged in phonetic groupings, we watched the Your Baby Can Read videos, we used these (150+) PowerPoint presentations I made for him (here's an enormous 862MB zip file), and we did many other literacy-building activities.  All of this was done in a completely pressure-free way; I taught him to say “that’s enough” and immediately stopped when, if not before, he got tired of any activity. (UPDATE: these flashcards are in the process of being converted into a high-quality digital version at ReadingBear.org.)

I hope that by publicizing our case, we will raise awareness of the methods available that can, in fact, teach very small children to read with about as much ease as they can learn spoken language or sign language.

Working on early childhood educational content and issues is now my full-time job; among other things, I'm planning a new tool that will emulate the best aspects of Your Baby Can Read, but it will be free.  I've passed off leadership of WatchKnow.org to a new CEO, the very capable Dr. Joe Thomas.  Expect to see regular updates on this blog about my work, and I'll be asking for your feedback about my various plans and ideas.

Please use this page to comment on both the essay and the video.

UPDATE: if you want a copy of the essay on your handheld device (and can't figure out how to put the PDF on your device), you can buy it for $2.99 from the Amazon Store.  Someone asked for this, and I obliged!

UPDATE 2 (Oct. 3, 2011): my son is now five years old. He is now reading daily on his own, and has read himself a couple dozen chapter books, including The Story of the World, Vol. 1: The Ancient World (314 pgs.).

UPDATE 3 (Dec. 16, 2012): at six, my son switches between "serious" literature which he reads with a dictionary app, including Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, and The Secret Garden, and easier literature including Beverly Cleary books, the Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown. If his answers to regular comprehension questions are any indication, he's understanding what he reads pretty well.

UPDATE 4 (Mar. 26, 2013): I'm delighted to report that my second son, following methods similar to those I used with my first, is now 2.5 years old and reading at a first grade level.

UPDATE 5 (Aug. 25, 2014): my second is following in his brother's footsteps, reading a version of the Odyssey (he's crazy about Greek mythology—go figure) at age 3.5: