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

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 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:

UPDATE 6 (June 4, 2020): for over a year now, my older son (now 14) has been studying a humanities sequence of my design (including history, literature, art, philosophy, religion, etc.). The texts are classics in English translation, including the Bible, Gilgamesh, myths and texts from ancient Sumeria and Egypt, Hesiod, all of Homer, selections from Confucius, Lao Tsu, long selections from Herodotus and Thucydides, plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, Socratic dialogues of Plato, much of The Republic, much of Aristotle’s Poetics and Nicomachean Ethics, other philosophy, Plutarch’s life of Alexander, and just now he’s getting into Livy. The younger son (now 9) finished Harry Potter a second time and is now reading The Lord of the Rings. Like his brother, he has read plenty of age-appropriate classics like Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer. Both have managed to get by without reading a single Language Arts text (I wouldn’t do that to them).





Please do dive in (politely). I want your reactions!

132 responses to “Essay on Baby Reading”

  1. Also, thanks for your kind words and encouragement, Tyson and mtb999. It was a lot of work.

  2. Wonderful contribution! Something strange though–I was not able to see the video using Firefox or Chrome–had to use I.E. before the video showed up.

    Have you had to address concerns of a child reading material that may not be age appropriate? Or that reading early could take away from the experience of being a child? Or that a child far ahead of grade level would be bored in a classroom?

  3. Kevin, thanks for telling me about the video bug. We’ll get right on fixing that.

    Nobody has ever expressed “concerns” about age appropriateness of what I’ve read to H. As to taking away from “the experience of being a child,” I do have a section in Part 2 about early education vs. play; in short, I think this is a false alternative. My boy spends 90% of his waking, non-meal hours playing. The other 10% we spend on educational stuff.

    If you yourself suspect that reading early could take away from the experience of being a child, I find that fascinating. Why do you think so? Can you articulate your worry?

    As to being far ahead of grade level, that’s addressed in section 3 of the conclusion of the essay. Our family’s solution to that is: well, we’re home schooling, so it’s not a problem.

    UPDATE: the bug is now fixed. How’s that for service?

    1. Wow! Quick service indeed! Sorry I did not read through the essay before commenting, since you address the questions there.

      I was mainly just vocalizing what I thought other people might have concerns with. As for myself, I think it’s wonderful! Our children have all read at a young age–not as young as your boy though! Our oldest, now 13, reads much faster than I can and simply devours books. Actually, all the kids love to read far more than I did as a child. And, as for being ahead of grade level, we home school too so it’s really not a concern.

      Thanks for your great contributions–I was unfamiliar with before coming across your post, so I appreciate that as well.

      I’ll ask you an interesting question that I was asked by a businessman in Turkey. He said they have literally hundreds of thousands of college students who could benefit from the freely available course materials available in English, except they don’t speak English. He then gave numbers for how many were in high school and grade school, then asked “How can we teach English to 3 million students on a budget of only $1 per student?” At first it sounded ridiculous, but I started thinking of some possibilities. I pose the question here because in terms of early childhood education, teaching another language would be ideal!

  4. I just finished reading your essay. What a fantastic resource this is for the world! It has brought up an interesting discussion in my local homeschooling community when I shared the link. I think that you hit the nail on the head when you talk about the two main objections from our culture. The “natural education” idea is so pervasive in the homeschooling community, from the very people you would think could benefit the most from early literacy! Thank you for promoting awareness of this issue so eloquently. Congratulations on teaching your son so well, and on the birth of your new baby.

    1. Thanks very much for the positive review!

  5. UPDATE: I just submitted the book to the Kindle store, so it should soon be available to download to hand-helds. This is for people who, for some reason, can’t download the PDF from this page.

    1. Teresa

      Your essay is certainly worthy of a much wider audience. I am SO glad that you decided to eventually publish your essay via the Kindle bookstore.

  6. arvi

    A great article! Though sad that it has not received a wide audience or the ripples that you expected. Currently I am trying to do something on similar lines in my local community, well, the same disappointment. No one is ready to understand it fully though they could see the benefits. I was perplexed about their behaviours, but after reading some of the comments here and in brillkids, I come to understand. Still I am in a dilemma if I should continue the plans or not.

    I appreciate that you are not giving up. Your posts and articles are inspiring and keeps me(and many) truly motivated. So keep posting.


    1. did you see the today show on Nov. 11,2010. Some 10 universities were cited saying children couldn’t read at an early age that they just memororised the text etc. and that Titzer was a charlatan. Why can’t people see? Every country could teach English as a second language to children when they are 2 years old.

      1. Charles, welcome to the blog. See my latest blog post on that program!

    2. arvi, I’m glad to help. You really need motivation? I think of teaching H. and E. as being just one of the nice things that is simply expected, like making good food. I call it a hobby, but maybe it’s more than that; I think of it as a duty. I’m not saying others have a duty to do something they’re not even convinced is necessary or beneficial, but since I am so convinced, that’s how it seems to me. I also try to keep it fun and really, I don’t feel obligated to do that much. We read at mealtimes and after breakfast, we usually do something after his nap, and I read to him at bedtime. Some of this is “down-time” or “break-time” anyway, so it’s not like it’s such a huge sacrifice.

  7. Mark

    I just wanted to say, Larry, how much I appreciate you and what you do. Many people would have sought to profit commercially from such a book and there’s nothing wrong with that but I can see that you are motivated by a desire to help humankind, not just to profit yourself. That is a rare and precious thing in this day and age, often not acknowledged enough in a person’s lifetime. I do hope you are aware of how much you are appreciated by others, both for the things you do, and for the person you are.

    1. I really appreciate this, Mark. It really made my day. I didn’t reply right away because, well, what can one really say to such a thing? Thanks, anyway.

  8. Mark

    I took the liberty of uploading the essay to Scribd (at The service provides the ability to transfer documents to hand-held devices including AmazonKindle, iPad, iPhone, Android and several others. I hope that’s OK. If it isn’t, please let me know.

    Thanks. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for this. I haven’t yet put this version on Amazon, but I will.

  9. Laura

    Thank you for ALL of your information. I found you on and use very much of your absolutely amazing and generous materials. I have a question for you. I’ve started doing the phonics set (prior we did glen doman, and baby can read). My daughter sounds out all the words in set 1 but doesn’t always say the whole word after. So for instance, she will sound out Mmmm—aaaa—-ttt (mat) but not always say “mat” when I ask “what word is that?.” I don’t want her to get bored so I am thinking that I should move on to set #2 because I believe she knows the answer, but just isn’t verbalizing it all the time, what do you think? PS shes 2 yrs 4 mths.

    1. Not being a reading expert, I can’t really give you definitive advice in such a case. But if I were in your situation, I would say, “OK, let’s change the game. This time, I will sound it out, and you say the word. OK?” Then use the method I used with H.–you sound out the word, then let your daughter say the whole thing. If she can’t or won’t, I am wondering if it’s too hard for her, and she needs a little more hand-holding. Maybe you need to say the word again blended, but very slowly. Then ask: what’s that, fast?

      It’s very possible that your daughter really doesn’t know how to put the letters together. It might seem obvious to you and me, but I assure you it isn’t obvious for first-time learners. I remember that H. definitely required help with it.

    2. Alana

      I was just reading through that comment and noticed your comment regarding your daughter not “putting” the sounds together and saying the entire word. This is called “blending” the sounds and it can be a difficult concept for toddlers to fully grasp. With that being said, you are creating phonemic awareness with the letters, and this will create a great foundation for future reading success. I would continue with the lessons…the blending will come in time. I am an elementary teacher, who homeschools our 9 year daughter, who has learning disabilities. She is beginning to have a lot more success with her reading since I began homeschooling her this year (previous years she was in public school). I give applause to you for your efforts to teach your daughter to read, and it’s wonderful to hear that you are having some success! Please keep us posted! 🙂

  10. Mrs Tovar

    Hi, I have read your essay and watched the video several times. I did not know it’s possible to teach some toddlers to read without any pressure so this is quite fascinating for me. My son is only 6 months old at this time. Since I plan to homeschool him at least for the first number of years, and hope to do so without insisting that he sit at a desk for hours each day, your essay was extremely interesting to me. Whether or not he reads at two, I think the early exposure to phonics and words will give him a firm and fun foundation for a lifetime of reading.

    1. Thanks very much for the note!

      Frankly, I’m finding that “pressure” of one kind or another is becoming more necessary as my boy gets older; he’d rather be playing with his beloved Legos. It would be a lot harder to do now what we did when he was one or two years old. When the little ones get a better idea in mind how they want to spend their time, persuading them to do anything else becomes more difficult. When they’re tiny, they don’t care so much, they’re “easy”–or mine was, anyway. Same way with my 3-month-old. He just loves interaction, of any kind.

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