Friday, March 9

Your Baby Can Read!

Reading is something both my husband and I love to do in our down time. Each of us is a ravenous bookworm and some of the first items we purchased when we found out we were expecting included a pile of children’s books. I often dream about the day when Bumper and I can cuddle up together with that pile of books and take turns reading stories to each other.

I firmly believe that early reading skills instill confidence, inspire the imagination, and provide the building blocks for a child's success. Who wouldn't want their child to read before hitting the school grade years? So when the Parent Blogger Network put out a call to review the DVD series "Your Baby Can Read!" we volunteered to try it out. We received the first two DVDs in the series, the Starter video and Volume one, in addition to the five Learn to Read Word Cards plus one Wipe-Clean card with erasable pen.

While skeptical of a DVD’s ability to teach Bumper to read, curiosity overrode our hesitation. As parents, we severely limit Bumper's TV exposure, reserving it for times of illness or absolute desperation. Since she has shown little interest in watching any program for longer than 10 minutes, I wasn't sure how we would make it through the Starter DVD (22 minutes). At first Bumper would humour us with about nine minutes of viewing but by the third sitting, she was watching the entire video. And dancing along with the music. And OMG! She is pointing to her nose, eyes, ears, and head. Well I'll be damned.

But was she reading the words or imitating the actors? It definitely was imitation but it was a great start. We've been trying to teach her body parts for a while and apparently watching others reinforced our attempts.

Dr. Titzer, creator of the Your Baby Can Read program, believes that babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers can achieve a strong reading skill foundation by practicing "multi-sensory" reading as demonstrated in this DVD series. Multi-sensory reading means the child sees, hears, and performs the physical action (when applicable) of the word. For example, the child is shown the word "clap", hears it pronounced multiple times, and then sees the action the word symbolizes - all while being encouraged to do the action for his or herself.

As instructed, I watched the video with Bumper and danced along to the familiar "Head and shoulders" and "If you're happy" songs. I also spent time repeating the words as shown on the screen and encouraged Bumper to repeat what she heard. It was fun and I noticed how much Bumper loved seeing the other children and babies on the screen. The voice-overs switched between adult and children and the variety of voices captured B's attention. More than once I heard her perfectly pronounce words like "hippopotamus" and "bucket".

I initially wondered about the word selections - the Starter Volume includes 22 and Volume One includes over 50 - but I quickly realized when I opened many of Bumper's books that many of the same words were featured prominently. The vocabulary includes animals, body parts, and common actions (for example: hi, wave, and kick). For older children, interesting facts are stated with some of the words, like how many species of monkeys exist and how to tell the difference between Asian and African elephants.

I was able to reinforce much of the vocabulary with little effort. The introduction recommends visiting the local library and getting a variety of books (something we already do) and pointing to the words while reading (an excellent idea - it reinforces the association between the written word and reading).

In addition to the DVDs, the program includes pullout word cards that display the words to help with reinforcement. Each card displays a word, and then you pull a tab to reveal a corresponding photo. At first Bumper just liked to grab at the cards but eventually she wanted to see what picture Mommy would reveal.

We found the program fun and it quickly became a part of our morning routine. For active play in the afternoon, the songs and poems provide great entertainment and active participation for Bumper.

What I liked best about the program:
  • Segments had babies and children only - no adults or commercial characters. I love that Dr. Titzer discourages other TV watching and there is no cross marketing of characters.
  • Gentle voice-overs and a variety of images to reinforce the words were pleasant and kept B’s interest.
  • Good mixture and timing of songs, poems and word display.
  • Simple and clean production values. The volumes are not too flashy and had a refreshing homemade family quality.
  • The word cards included a write-on/wipe-off card and pen for personalized words.
  • The Kids Club option on the Main Menu of each DVD allows you to jump right to the poems and songs. This was great when B had already watched the video but wanted some more songs and dancing.
  • The Parents options on the Main Menu includes very interesting information about Dr. Titzer's research and helpful hints for parents using the system
Things that could be improved:
  • Word games at the end of Volume One moved too quickly. Perhaps recommending the parent to pause on the word display to give a child a chance to select the right answer would be helpful.
  • It recommends that you make your child look at the words on the screen, not just the actions and this was a request that I found nearly impossible to do. Bumper tended to maintain eye-contact with the screen when there was activity and demonstration but stand-alone word display with the reading arrow did not engage her and I found it impossible to encourage. Perhaps that will come with time.
Since we started watching weeks ago, Bumper now "asks" for it each morning and sometimes "demands" it during the day. I've created a Your Baby Can Read monster.

So did my 17 month old learn to read in the time we had for the review? No. Do I think she could learn from watching these DVDs? Yes. I am going to keep watching them with her because it's fun. And learning should be fun.


metro mama said...

I missed this one. Sounds good.

Elizabeth said...

I would love to get these for my 16 month old daughter! She already understands a bunch of words, and she loves watching DVDs. Thanks for the review!

Gabriella said...

what a great review, so informative. i've always been leery of these instructional videos but this one sounds like it's a good one. And I love that pic of Bumper sitting down looking at the "nose" card, it's like she's at school.

Kyla said...

Excellent review. We watch Signing Time, which actually seems very much the same. It encorporates sign language, written word, spoken word, pictures, and songs. For us it is a better fit because KayTar's vocabulary is largely sign language. I think the reason she has picked up so easily is in the presentation of the show. I do think that Your Baby Can Read is probably VERY beneficial to kiddos. Again, great review!

Sandra said...

Sounds cool. And if learning is fun ... well that is half the battle.

Jezer said...

We don't do nearly enough of the reading/educational stuff around here. And dude, I'm a reading teacher. It's shameful, really.

But I do know this much: you mention that Bumper "imitates" some of the reading behaviors, and that is TOTALLY an important early reading skill. She'll be WAY ahead of the game.

An aside: I *still* do multisensory reading (read with your finger, your ears, your eyes, your mouth) with at-risk 3rd and 4th graders. It makes a huge difference.

You've inspired me to get off my tookas and at least do some more good ol' fashioned reading with Al. An excellent review.

something blue said...

Reading is always one of my favourite times of the day.

That picture of Bumper touching her nose makes me want to run out to turn Buttercup into a Your Baby Can Read monster too!

nomotherearth said...

I'm with Something Blue in that the picture you took makes me really want to get the product. You should submit it to them...!

Anything that makes reading fun for kids is okay by me. I'm volunteering in a reading program with an 8 year old who likes nothing but video games. It's been an uphill struggle.

modmom said...

loved your review motherbumper + mod header :)

Marcella said...

It's nice program!! I bought Your Baby Can Read DVDs... It is really beneficial!!