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
PDFDOCHTML
(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):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIu8BGFqMm4

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: