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Can your baby really read?

Updated on July 28, 2016

We have all seen the infomercials and heard the radio ads. They promise that if we are willing to pay their price they will put a reading program in your hands which will empower you to teach your infant or toddler to read!

Parents and grandparents everywhere are excited about the prospect and rush to make this purchase. They want to be the first in their neighborhood to have an infant who can read. It sounds wonderful and makes us all warm and fuzzy inside to think that our prescious babies will be able to read before they can walk.

But, is there any truth to it? Is your baby really reading? Or is something else happening? Well, in one sense, yes, your baby can read and in another sense, no, yourbaby cannot read!

Looks like a picture to me....


The ability to read involves an element of comprehension which goes beyond recognizing an isolated word. The testimonials show children responding to individual words. This is wonderful, but it does not constitute the fullness of reading.

The child is recognizing shapes and combinations of shapes but they have no concept that they are seeing a "word." As far as they are concerned, the letters they see are just another picture.

As experienced readers, we also read based on the shape of the letter combinations. The difference is we differientiate letters from pictures and associate sound with each letter or combination of letters.

Additionally, we anticipate words based on their length, and their beginning and ending lettters. Unless we are especially challenged by the difficulty of a word, we don't see the middle portion of words.

You don't believe me? Alright, can you read this?

“i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. Letter odrer is not imoprtant to the expienrced redaer."

"I could not believe that icould actually understand what I was reading. Word order is not importantto the experienced reader"

Conversely, the new learner must learn letter shape, order and sound as well as definition if they are to be considered as "reading".

Word Recognition

By definition, "read" or the infinitive "to read" means:

  • to look at carefully so as to understand the meaning of (something written, printed, etc.):
  • to utter aloud or render in speech (something written, printed, etc.):
  • to have such knowledge of (a language) as to be able to understand things written in it
  • to apprehend the meaning of (signs, characters, etc.)

This is not what your baby is doing.What your baby is doing is parroting or calling words.

This behavior has deceived many a parent into thinking their child is acutually reading.

When a child does this, the parent thinks, "Oh my, my brilliant son or daughter can read! They call grandparents,excited to insinuate that their choice of husband or wife was OK even though mother didn't think so. They call their neighbors and brag unashamedly suggesting that their child is smarter than every other child of that age. They thrust out their chest and hold high their head. That is until their child enters first grade and comes home with a substandard evaluation in.... what else, reading!

Now the parents are shocked, dismayed and ready to blame the teacher, when the problem all along is simply a misunderstanding or whether or not the child was reading in the first place.

Face it mom, dad, your baby is not reading in the strictest sense of the word....your baby is "calling words". This is a good thing, but we don't want to mistake it for reading. One thing these "reading" programs are good for is teaching language, stimulating the brain and building vocabulary. But they do not solidify comprehension or teach children to decode words in context.

5 Components of Reading

The five components of reading include:

  • Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words.
  • Phonics is the relationships between the letters (graphemes) of written language and the individual sounds (phonemes) of spoken language. Phonics instruction teaches learners to use these relationships to use and write words.
  • Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. They read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.
  • Vocabulary refers to the words we must know to communicate effectively. Vocabulary is also very important to reading comprehension. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. Learning to read more advanced texts means readers must learn the meaning of new words that are not part of their oral vocabulary.
  • Comprehension is the reason for reading. If readers can read the words but do not understand what they are reading, they are not really reading. Good readers are both purposeful (they have a reason to read) and active (they think to make sense of what they read).

Save Your Money

You would do better putting your money in a trust fund for your babies future. If you want your child to have an academic advantage there are several things you can do. First take advantage of all the freebies available from Reading is Fundamental. Second understand that you are the most important element in ensuring your child's academic future. Research tells us that parent involvement, daily reading with and to your child is the best way to jump start his or her learning. Lastly, love them, enjoy them and get to know them.


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