It’s official: you can’t teach a baby to read with flashcards

DVDs, flip books and flashcards for 9-month-olds don’t work, expert says

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If you’re not trying to teach your 9-month-old baby to read with flashcards and DVDs then don’t panic…

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Experts say trying to teach babies aged 9-18 months to read with DVDs, word and picture flashcards and flip books doesn’t work.

In a new study by researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, 117 infants aged 9 to 18 months, were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups.

The treatment groups received a baby media product, which included DVDs, word and picture flashcards, and flip books to be used daily over a seven-month period; children in the control condition did not receive any materials.

After 7 months, the researchers examined the babies’ capacity to recognise letter names, letter sounds, vocabulary, words identified on sight, and comprehension.

The results showed no differences in emerging language skills between the infants exposed to baby media and the control group on 13 of the 14 assessments.

“While we cannot say with full assurance that infants at this age cannot learn printed words, our results make clear they did not learn printed words from the baby media product that was tested,” says Susan Neuman, a professor in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Teaching and Learning and the study’s senior author.

The only assessment that showed a difference was parents’ beliefs that their child was learning new words.

“It’s clear that parents have great confidence in the impact of these products on their children,” Neuman explains. “However, our study indicates this sentiment is misplaced.”

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