I loved reading from a very early age. So early, that I don't have any recollection of being taught to read. I recall my parents telling me stories, I recall holding books in my hands, I recall sinking into those books and disappearing into their pages... but I have no recollection of struggling with words, of making an effort to bring those words into focus.
I must have done, of course. I was not born a fully-formed reader. Still, it seems to me that whatever my education in reading, there must have been something organic about it if all that remains of the memory of that education is the vague recollection of the first pleasures of the text.
So it was that I was somewhat skeptical of the idea behind the 'Your Baby Can Read!' program. Not because I doubted its claims to be able to teach babies to read, but because I doubted the desirability of doing so. Sure, I might get WonderBaby to read the words in her books, rather than just fondle the pages and kiss the pictures, but to what end? Shouldn't she love her books for the simple joy of being able to embrace their bookiness, before rushing to decode the letters inside? Shouldn't the relationship begin as an erotic one, such that her intoxication with the book compels her to explore every inch of its mysteries, from form to image to word and beyond?
And, how could I overlook the disconcerting irony that attends to teaching one's child to read with a DVD?
Still, I was curious. So we gave it a whirl.
And it works. Sort of.
WonderBaby can now identify the words 'Hi' and 'Cat' - and, sometimes, 'Dog,' although she resists saying dog, because she is insistent upon the true status of dogs as cats at the moment - on a flashcard, without pictures. And she certainly loves the pictureless flashcards (pictures slide in and out of the side of the card). But then again, she's always enjoyed plucking novels from our bookshelves and sitting down with them and pointing at the lines of text, so I'm not sure to what extent her love of the flashcards is due to the program.
And she loved the video - not as much as she loves Teletubbies, but the very fact that she let me play the DVD instead of Teletubbies for minutes on end was an accomplishment in itself. She loved the songs, and has become a fanatic enthusiast of the song 'Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.' She loved pointing at words on the screen, and shouting hi whenever the little girl who narrates appeared. And the whole system made good sense - incorporate text with images, use music and children to make it fun. Sesame Street has been doing this, brilliantly, for decades, but WonderBaby hasn't warmed to Sesame Street yet - she hasn't warmed to anything on television or DVD save Teletubbies - and so it was amusing and interesting to see her response.
Still... she was never interested in watching for more than ten minutes or so at a time, and I was never interested in compelling her to do so. So when she would toddle over to the TV and push the power button off and say no, that was that. And when she would wander away from the TV and reach for Hug or Maisie's Colors or Goodnight, Gorilla and shout Ya Ya Ya Ya Boo! (book), my heart would swell and I'd remember: This is how we read.
Last word: at $79.95 for the complete 5-dvd set with flashcards, I'd consider it, if only because she looooved the flashcards, and because the dvds provided much needed respite from Teletubbies (that is, after I learned to fast-forward through the opening sequences featuring the good doctor Titzer, creator of the program, who seems a nice guy but bears a disconcerting resemblence to Steve Buscemi and tends to go on.) The musical sequences were like crack for WonderBaby, who would begin dancing and hooting immediately. And if the idea of teaching your young child to read in this way appeals to you, then by all means go for it - even with sporadic viewing, WonderBaby learned very quickly to recognize certain words. We, however, will stick with books.
(With thanks to the Parents Blogger Network!)