New parents eager to dote on their new arrival are often ambitious for their child. The large industry that has sprung up around teaching babies to read early is a testament to that. However, it now appears that such well-intentioned reading instruction is a cause lost on the babies themselves.
A new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology has shown that the DVDs, flash cards, and baby books marketed to help babies learn their words are generally useless for that purpose. This is despite the fact that parents believe such materials actually work.
Researchers from New York University looked at 117 children from age nine months to 18 months. Some of the children received teaching materials for reading while others did not. After following the children for seven months, researchers found no differences between any of the children on 13 of their 14 different assessment metrics.
"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," said Susan Neuman, senior author of the study and a professor at NYU.
The only metric the children differed on was one dealing with how parents assessed their child's learning. The parents of children who received the teaching materials were confident that their baby was learning from the material. The study's other metrics, of course, showed that belief to be unjustified.
"It's clear that parents have great confidence in the impact of these products on their children," said Neuman. "However, our study indicates this sentiment is misplaced."