Marsha Lucas asks if introducing children to reading at an early age developmentally appropriate.
Louise Bates Ames, PhD, a superstar in child development and the director of research at the world-renowned Gesell Institute of Child Development, stated that “a delay in reading instruction would be a preventative measure in avoiding nearly all reading failure.” Leapfrogging necessary cognitive developmental skills — and asking a young brain to do tasks for which it isn’t truly ready — is asking for trouble with learning.
The brains of young children aren’t yet developed enough to read without it costing them in the organization and “wiring” of their brain. The areas involved in language and reading aren’t fully online — and aren’t connected — until age seven or eight. If we’re teaching children to do tasks which their brains are not yet developed to do via the “normal” (and most efficient) pathways, the brain will stumble upon other, less efficient ways to accomplish the tasks — which lays down wiring in some funky ways — and can lead to later learning disabilities, including visual-processing deficits.
The description of brain development on which the “Your Baby Can Read” program rests its questionable claims is remarkably flawed, confusing language acquisition with reading. They state: “A baby’s brain thrives on stimulation and develops at a phenomenal pace…nearly 90% during the first five years of life! The best and easiest time to learn a language is during the infant and toddler years, when the brain is creating thousands of synapses every second — allowing a child to learn both the written word and spoken word simultaneously, and with much more ease….” There is a huge and unsupported leap here from language acquisition – which is definitely an important developmental task, necessary for connecting to one’s outer world – and reading, which is a very different neurological and cognitive task, and one which is not developmentally appropriate for a baby or toddler’s brain.
Does early training really get you anywhere? There is a classic study of twins which was done by another pioneer in child development, Arnold Gesell, PhD, MD. He studied a pair of toddler twins, who were not yet able to climb stairs. For the study, one of the twins was given daily practice and encouragement to climb stairs, and the other twin had no stairs to practice on. After six weeks of practice, the “trained” twin could climb the stairs, and the “untrained” twin could not. However, within one week of being given the opportunity to climb stairs, the untrained twin completely caught up with the trained twin’s stair-climbing ability.
The whole idea that learning to read early gives children — or our educational system, or our economy — an “advantage” is not based on empirical evidence. If you look at the US and Britain, you see the trends toward earlier reading and increasingly less successful educational systems. On the other hand, the majority of children in Finland begin instruction in reading at age seven — two years later than here in the US (and even later than the folks at “Your Baby Can Read” would have you start). The outcome? Finnish students not only catch up to their earlier-starting counterparts, but they surpass the United States, other European countries, and Asian countries as well, with top overall scores in the world in reading, science, and math.…
Read more at Rewire Your Brain For Love.