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Author Topic: Research: Can babies learn to read? No, study finds  (Read 15169 times)
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Ayesha Nicole
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« on: March 04, 2014, 04:22:07 AM »

Research:  Can babies learn to read? No, study finds

Date: February 25, 2014

Source: New York University

Summary: Can babies learn to read? While parents use DVDs and other media in an attempt to teach their infants to read, these tools don’t instill reading skills in babies, a study has found. "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," authors note. However, there was one undeniable effect of these products -- on parents. In exit interviews, there was the belief among parents that their babies were learning to read and that their children had benefited from the program in some areas of vocabulary development.

continued:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225111818.htm

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robbyjo
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« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2014, 06:51:43 AM »

Interesting. Will read the full paper tomorrow. The study sample looks okay (117), with appropriate age range (9-18 mos). Randomization appears to be used. Longitudinal data (7 mos) follow up. Not sure about dropout rate. I am not very sure about the measurements or the materials used or the scoring. The authors appear to use eye-tracking method, with which I have some qualms. My problem is with this statement:

"If the babies’ eyes moved across a word from left to right, as would a normal reader’s, it indicated greater “reading ability” than if the child’s gaze floated freely across the screen."

Well... It is hard to make the babies focus and stare at the words. Arguably, their eyes are all over the screen. So, eye tracking method isn't really a reliable measure for "reading ability".

I reserve further comments for later.


« Last Edit: March 04, 2014, 06:54:08 AM by robbyjo » Logged
robbyjo
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« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2014, 06:58:12 AM »

I think it is incomplete to not include NAEYC's statement:

Quote
It is the position of NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center that:
Technology and interactive media are tools that can promote effective learning and development when they are used intentionally by early childhood educators, within the framework of developmentally appropriate practice (NAEYC 2009a), to support learning goals established for individual children. The framework of developmentally appropriate practice begins with knowledge about what children of the age and developmental status represented in a particular group are typically like. This knowledge provides a general idea of the activities, routines, interactions, and curriculum that should be effective. Each child in the particular group is then considered both as an individual and within the context of that child’s specific family, community, culture, linguistic norms, social group, past experience (including learning and behavior), and current circumstances (www.naeyc.org/dap/core; retrieved February 2, 2012).

Children’s experiences with technology and interactive media are increasingly part of the context of their lives, which must be considered as part of the developmentally appropriate framework. To make informed decisions regarding the intentional
use of technology and interactive media in ways that support children’s learning and development, early childhood teachers and staff need information and resources on the nature of these tools and the implications of their use with children.


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TCBKKIDS
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« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2014, 06:49:01 PM »

I began showing Little Reader/Math to my grandson 3-5 times (30-40 seconds) daily at 12 weeks old.  I had no way of measuring success until he began to have verbal skills.  He is now 4yr 10mo years old and in Pre school.  He is a bit on the shy side. I and many other people are astonished at his reading skills.  He intuits phonics (as described on the Glenn Doman site).  He never looks up for help with a word, he flows directly to reading the word even though it may be his first encounter with the new word.  We used the History Channel space videos and select captioning when possible.  Also:  Leap Frog etc.  We use Word Caption as much as possible.  I also (3 Mo - 3y) showed Singing Babies Nursery Ryme Time and Toddler Tunes with word caption 2-3 times per day. He goes to the 1-8 grade school library and selects books up through grade 8 level and reads them fluently.  He reads every word even the words not previously experienced.  His reading skills have enabled him to jump far ahead in the learning process.  The Preschool teachers let him proceed at his own pace.  In some ways he sets a fast learning pace for the other children and that really helps the teachers to move quickly through the material.
I attempted to follow this same pattern with his younger sister, now 3 yr 1 mo old.  Regretably, I did not follow the same specific schedule and while she is starting to demonstrate similar capablity  she does not have the comfort with reading that he has acquired.   I appears that starting early with frequent learning  is very affective.

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robbyjo
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« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2014, 09:47:59 PM »

After scouring the web, here is the PDF of the paper.

Wow. The result is pretty damning. The material used in the intervention is YBCR. The author used Ehri's definition of reading phases (see here for critiques). From what I see when teaching my daughter, infants tend to see words as shapes. So, when my daughter saw the same word in another font, she would not recognize the word. But if the font matches, she would recognize the word. This is why I was betting on the results on the pre-alphabetic phase, but it showed no difference. The fidelity of implementation also showed no difference.

I have some qualms on the statistical analysis that they did---why did they choose F test instead of T? It obscures the effect directionality and F with first degree of 1 is equivalent of T. They have 4 different measurements (one per exam), so, why DF1 is 1 and not 4? They stated that they used ANCOVA, but I see no covariates mentioned or at least it is unclear. They should use paired T analysis or its analog. Plus, the pre-alphabetic test was done when? at 3 month or at each meeting? This is not clear either. They did all the tests in 45 minutes, for all the 14 categories? That's a lot of tests in a short period.

As it is, the paper itself is pretty solid. It is hard to argue against it, to be honest. The major qualm I have is that the authors didn't use MRI or other brain-based measurements during learning sessions. If babies' brains do exhibit over expression in brain areas for languages, then we can argue that these learning videos may indeed be helpful to stimulate language development, but the results may not be immediately apparent (even after 7 months).

I would love to see replication studies across different populations. The study itself is on pretty well off families for the most part. Perhaps more gains could be achieved in more disadvantaged populations.

Footnote: On shape-word connection, I couldn't find the paper I had read (that was a long time ago). I think this paper is somewhat close. So, I think there might be a pre-pre-alphabetic phase of learning, or maybe something else altogether.


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Paddy Jim Baggot MD
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2014, 10:03:04 PM »

if one reads alphabetically, as if knowing phonics first, one might track left right.

were one reading right brain or whole word, one might not track at all-the whole word is the symbol. 

by what is stated above, hebrews don't read,  as they read right to left.  Do they "unread?"

i have seen at least one 3 month old read.

pjb.

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seastar
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2014, 10:48:05 PM »

We had a long discussion of this on the EL facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/386335411472271/. I feel there are many flaws in the study:
- parent views were dismissed rather than explored for discrepancy between their views and the researchers
- the study makes no mention of the key ingredient in teaching your baby to read: make it fun and stop before the baby wants to stop
- seven months may not be long enough for the children to show what they know
- babies are notorious for not performing on demand
- YBCR is a sight word programme so it does not make sense to test other reading skills in order to measure efficacy of claims, e.g. testing babies on their knowledge of letter sounds and letter names makes no sense
- babies were instructed to "look at the car" rather than the clearer "car"
- babies were told to "get Nathan's car" but the car did not belong to the child so, again, this test did not make sense to me. In addition, YBCR does not claim to teach babies how to read their own name, only the words in the programme
- I was in touch with Dr Titzer about it. He said that one of the peer reviewers of the article has written 3 books about Neuman and is the expert witness for the FTC against YBCR. Dr Titzer has prepared a reply that he is about to put on his new website www.infantlearning.com
- babies were tested using words and non-words. As the non words included novel symbols, babies were probably more likely to look at them than the words they already knew. This is also true for the unfamiliar distractor words.

There are lots of comments here http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/02/study-babies-cant-learn-to-read/284067/#disqus_thread and here http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/study-babies-didnt-learn-to-read-despite-parents-beliefs/ that may be of interest

For those interested, it is well worth reading the original study. Hopefully, it will lead to more studies that may shed greater light on the topic.

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Ayesha Nicole
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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2014, 11:06:03 PM »

I would like to see Dr. Richard Gentry's (http://jrichardgentry.com/) opinions on this, as well as conducting more studies.

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robbyjo
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« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2014, 11:44:38 PM »

Quote from: Seastar
He said that one of the peer reviewers of the article...

Generally, the peer reviewers of scientific articles of reputable journals are anonymous (and remain anonymous even if the article is already published or rejected) to ensure at least single-blind situation. The reviews are typically confidential and only the authors know about it.

Given this knowledge, I'd put a huge question mark if Dr. Titzer said he knew about one of the reviewers. Firstly, how did he know which reviewer? Secondly, how did he know that one of them was critical to his product? Did he mean one of the editors of the journal?

Regarding the flaws you raised, here is what I think:
1. The authors purposefully dismissed parental views in order to avoid bias (especially because parents tend to praise their babies more than deserved).
2. There might be flaws in the protocol, such as 7 month being insufficient or ensuring fun, but the paper makes it clear that they are following the manufacturer's protocol. This only shows that the current protocol, as endorsed by the manufacturer, is at least incomplete.
3. About testing letter sounds: This was because they want to be thorough in examining reading stages as prescribed by Ehri 1994. While I agree it is an overkill, I was taken aback that the authors couldn't find the pre-reading stage to be significantly different between treatment and control.
4. I think testing protocol needs to be clarified further to ensure performance capture.

I understand that many EL moms are upset about this finding. I think the right approach is to refine the training and testing protocols and then publish another paper.

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Skippy
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2014, 11:46:28 PM »

There are numerous problems with the study mentioned. First, the young children are sightlearning to read certain words in particular fonts.  So showing them letters of the alphabet and expecting them to identify them by sound at 18 months or to read words in different fonts seems totally preposterous.  Also many children in the 12 - 18 month group are not very verbal.  And often when they say something only the mother can guess what it is. Also I agree that YBCR does not teach children to read their own names.  It is obviously ridiculous to show an 18 month words which he has never seen before.   My grandson started on YBCR at 8 weeks and did all the DVDs, not just ONE DVD over a period of more than one year.  He was also shown flashcards.  But after 7 months of doing the program, I am sure that he would not be "reading".   At the age of 2 1/2, however,  he seemed to be reading quite a few words from children's books which I showed him.  His first language is German, and his second language is English.  By the age of 2 and 10 months, he was able to read some sentences from the German newspaper, although he had received very little instruction in reading German.  From the age of 3 he started Japanese school one day a week, and his father also reads Japanese with him in the evenings, and by age 5 he can read Japanese too, which is his third language.  Unfortunately, I do not know what his reading level is in English, but he seems to understand phonics and can read words which are new to him. 

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Paddy Jim Baggot MD
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2014, 01:42:54 AM »

Generally, the peer reviewers of scientific articles of reputable journals are anonymous (and remain anonymous even if the article is already published or rejected) to ensure at least single-blind situation. The reviews are typically confidential and only the authors know about it.
Given this knowledge, I'd put a huge question mark if Dr. Titzer said he knew about one of the reviewers. Firstly, how did he know which reviewer? Secondly, how did he know that one of them was critical to his product? Did he mean one of the editors of the journal?

reply: reviewers are supposed to be confidential.  So only revierwers know who they are.  Titzer would only found out if reviewers spoke up.
thus he should not be questioned if they spoke up.  How could he control confessions of other people?  sometimes when things are done in secret they might not be above board.  Sometimes those in the know feel uncomfortable with whats going on.  that could be why they confess.

1. The authors purposefully dismissed parental views in order to avoid bias (especially because parents tend to praise their babies more than deserved).
reply:  here it is assumed that PhDs in white coats know much more about a child than a parent, who is "assumed" to be biased.  Is there objective data that parents are "biased"? When making assumptions, it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion. 

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robbyjo
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2014, 04:57:49 PM »

reply: reviewers are supposed to be confidential.  So only revierwers know who they are.  Titzer would only found out if reviewers spoke up.
thus he should not be questioned if they spoke up.  How could he control confessions of other people?  sometimes when things are done in secret they might not be above board.  Sometimes those in the know feel uncomfortable with whats going on.  that could be why they confess.

I don't know the settings in educational research, but revealing identities of reviewers or speaking up as a reviewer would violate reviewer's agreements at best and scientific ethics at worst.

reply:  here it is assumed that PhDs in white coats know much more about a child than a parent, who is "assumed" to be biased.  Is there objective data that parents are "biased"? When making assumptions, it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion. 

Well, surely parents know better, but there is ample evidence that parents estimates of their kids' cognitive abilities have been grossly inaccurate (article 1, article 2, article 3). Nevertheless, parental beliefs and practices are correlated with their kids' eventual academic performance. So, in the context of babies, I think it is important to separate parental bias from real scoring.

Note: I am not against EL. I do EL to my kids and with some success. Do not direct the attacks against me (as some did through PMs).

Edit: Added a more recent article. Also note that, concluding from the articles, it always pays to always believe in your kids.

« Last Edit: March 11, 2014, 05:04:46 PM by robbyjo » Logged
luv2laugh
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2014, 03:43:21 PM »

I would think as parents of early learners we would be open to analysis of the materials we use.  Remember that the study only shows how a specific population scored on certain tests after using a specific product.  That is all any well conducted study does and then we draw conclusions based on those results. Sometimes there are flaws in methodology, but I feel that there is a level of reactivity on this board which is surprising.  Bobbyjo, I can't believe you received PMs about this. 

I would be surprised if my daughter could read before two.  Can babies read?  I think very few on the forum believe so.  More so, if we expose our children to written language, as we do verbal language, they will be able to pick it up in the same way.  Babies can't talk either.  And if they can, are certainly not fluent.

Furthermore, the material chosen (as already mentioned) does not teach reading, but sight word identification.  I am not a big fan of YBCR because it is so limited.  I really like the flash cards and it is a cute video, but I feel the recommendation for so much repetition grossly underestimates our baby's ability to absorb information.  It is so exciting how sponge like they are.

I've been wanting to comment on this thread for awhile, but keep having to move on due to time restraints.  Thank you BobbyJo for your analysis of the study.  Thank you also seastar and others for giving your insights.  I found the study really interesting and I am glad they are doing studies like this.  I hope they do more!

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PokerDad
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« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2014, 08:47:52 PM »

YBCR can is the best video product out there, bar none, for the under 1 year old age range, and my opinion has little to do with reading. I never expected it to teach my kid to read, but it introduces literacy and does so in a productive way (if used at the right time).

Quote
Babies can't talk either.  And if they can, are certainly not fluent.

Judging from this quote, you're just setting the bar extraordinarily high. Reading and speaking can follow almost identical trajectories of development. My kid can speak short sentences, but he's not fluent. He can read quite a few words (a few hundred?) but isn't fluent. I'm not sure at what point you'd define speaking or reading, but in the next 4 months (age 2), I plan on getting 90% there.

This study was over at about the time Cub was getting ready for "showtime"

Game on. The doubters have gone home, and now it's time to roll up the sleeves and get it done.

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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2014, 01:41:52 AM »

Well, it is called "Your Baby Can Read," so it is suggesting that a baby can read.

I had already been using Little Reader for a year before I got YBCR and it didn't hold either of my children's interest.  Little reader might not either if they were free to run around but I always show it to them while they are strapped into high chairs eating and they like it a lot.  I got that recommendation here and i appreciate that. I only showed them YBCR on the TV while they were free to run around and they did.

My almost 3 year old can read and I'm thrilled.  I didn't get him until he was 22 months old and I still consider him my baby.  He started reading at 2 years 8 months and technically that might not be considered a baby.  He isn't potty trained yet.  You can tell where my priorities are.

My 17 month old can't read but he knows all his letter sounds and he just started talking. He knows four sight words that I know of. His speech seemed to come after learning the letter sounds. It may have been a coincidence.  We started with him at three months.

My almost three year old's speech greatly improved after starting Reading Bear.  That was not a coincidence.  Reading bear prompts the kids to say the word.  After that he started to say every word on Little Reader out loud too.  The combo did it.   That is a lot of words to hear articulated properly and repeat.

I buy almost every recommendation I find here for reading, so my kids would make bad test subjects for one product.

A patient of mine who is a Kindergarten teacher told me her two year old Granddaughter Could read and later showed me a video.  She had purchased YBCR for her.  That was before I had either baby, but I tucked away that info for later use.  I just found Brillkids while reading a review on Amazon and got Little Reader instead.

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