Shine On

Your Baby Can Read company folds amid false advertising claims

Do you believe it's possible for a baby to learn to read? (Thinkstock)If you've ever bought a DVD that promises to teach your infant how to read before their years, or promises to produce a baby genius, you may be disappointed. If recent events are any indicator, it seems babies can't actually read, no matter how many DVD's they watch.

The makers of Your Baby Can Read, a DVD that promised to teach babies to read through a series of educational videos, is going out of business, citing the high cost of fighting legal battles brought on by consumers disputing their claims. The company, however, stands by their products, claiming they do work, reports the LA Times.

You may have seen the late night infomercials for Your Baby Can Read!. They show happy babies and toddlers apparently reading words from the program's cue cards and video programs. The program was also available in Canada through the website Shopnorthern.com for $149.99, and appeared on the Canadian websites of stores like Costco and Walmart.

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The television and online ads claimed that toddlers and infants can learn to read before going to school, "when the brain is creating thousands of synapses, or connections," and pressured parents to "seize this small window of opportunity." Parents who purchased the product were encouraged to have their baby watch a 30-minute video two times daily.

Don Giesbrecht, president and CEO of the Ottawa-based Canadian Child Care Federation, says it's a stretch to believe you can plop a baby in front of the television and expect them to absorb everything being thrown at them, without any help or interaction from a parent or caregiver.

"I don't think they're dangerous," he says of videos that promise to teach children beyond their years. "I just don't think they can live up to the expectations that they're saying they can. The research doesn't support it."

Giesbrecht emphasizes the point that research shows children learn through play, manipulating their own environments, socialization and interaction with others. A child building a tower of blocks may simply seem like a child building a tower of blocks, but it is a complex relationship that involves learning about math, balance and many other important concepts.

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"Putting a child in front of a TV and expecting them learn something, just by having them sit there? It's not going to happen," he says. "Will a child sit down in front of a TV and through repetition and through pure enjoyment clap their hands, sing a song, smile, giggle, that sort of thing — yes. But if the parent or the caregiver is actively involved in that process, it will happen for sure."

He believes children are much more likely to learn from interactive play and socialization than passively watching "brain enhancing" videos, or even by sitting down with a parent who uses flash cards.

Yet still, Geisbrecht says many parents want to believe that children are capable of more developmentally than we give them credit for, or that their own children are born extra intelligent as compared to the average child.

Watch the touching video below about how the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto held a prom night for its young patients.

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