Is it too soon to say “My Baby Can Read?”
Experts, both scientists and educators, see reading as primarily an act of comprehension. It isn’t enough to know how to pronounce the syllables of the words, or even to read and understand individual words.
Reading should involve both the skill of recognizing words and the ability to make a mental picture out of the ideas the words are describing. Unless the reader is able to form this mental picture, it can’t be said that he or she is actually reading the way it’s supposed to be done. Merely recognizing words doesn’t lead to learning or critical thought.
Parents, on the other hand, simply see reading as the ability to be able to put the correct sounds to written words. At an early age, this is very impressive, but unless this skill blossoms into something deeper, it isn’t going to give your child the edge you expect it will.
Here are 4 reasons why parent’s shouldn’t be so eager to say, “my baby can read.”
#1. Studies show that babies can’t read.
The professional definition of a baby or infant is a child who doesn’t have enough motor or mental skills to sit up by itself or talk properly. Reading is an advanced language skill; if a baby isn’t even capable of the more basic language skill of speaking, there’s no use in trying to force a baby to read.
A baby simply hasn’t progressed enough to be able to read. Expecting a baby to read isn’t so different from expecting a baby to run and jump. If he’s really a baby, no matter how smart he is, he isn’t capable of it because it isn’t time yet.
#2. Trying to force a child to read when he’s not ready is detrimental to his growth.
According to studies, better reading comprehension develops when there is sufficient interaction between the right and left side of the brain. “Phonetic awareness,” which is the ability to recognize the sounds in the language that make up words, is rooted in the left side of the brain. If a child is taught to read phonetically, the left brain recognizes the words, while the right brain forms mental pictures and connections. This is the ideal process behind reading.
Very often, children who are taught to read too young are able to recognize words not because of their left brain’s phonetic awareness, but because their right brains are taught to see the words as pictures related to sounds. This means that there’s not enough interaction across both sides of the brain. Later on, this leads to weaker reading comprehension, which is an essential skill for higher learning.
#3. Children imitate the actions they see from their parents, and their parents think that this means the children can already understand the words they’re seeing.
If a mother points at her child’s father, and says “point to daddy,” the child will point at his father, not necessarily because he understands the words, but because his mother is pointing. Later on, if the mother says “point to daddy” without pointing, and the child does this action, it still isn’t proof that the child understands the words. It could be that he simply associates the sound with the action.
You can be sure the child understands if the mother says, “point to mommy,” without any prior action, and the child does it. It’s the same for reading. Parents may think that their child is reading if he’s taught to recognize a word from a flash card. But the only way to be sure is if he can actually read the same word in a different font, in an unfamiliar setting. Even the most basic part of reading, recognizing sounds, should be a transferable skill, meaning it will apply to the word in any circumstance where it can be encountered.