One company claims you can use flash cards to teach your infant math, another says that babies can learn to read words without learning the alphabet. There are many similar claims out there, all targeted toward parents with the best intentions who just want to bring out their baby’s brilliance. However, a study from New York University closes the book on the issue, saying DVDs and other media do not instill reading skills in infants.
“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,” says Susan Neuman, a professor in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Teaching and Learning and the study’s senior author.
She says these products do have a profound effect on parents. The parents interviewed for the study believe their babies were learning to read and had benefited from the program.
“It’s clear that parents have great confidence in the impact of these products on their children,” Neuman explains. “However, our study indicates this sentiment is misplaced.”
According to an NYU press release, researchers studied 117 infants, aged nine to 18 months over the course of seven months. Some children received a baby media product, including DVDs, word and picture flashcards and flipbooks that were to be used daily. The remaining children did not receive the baby media product. In their study, which appears in the Journal of Educational Pyschology, the researchers visited the children at home and in a laboratory and assessed language development.
Researchers tested the children’s ability to recognize letter names, letter sounds, vocabulary, words identified on sight, and comprehension. The results showed no differences between the babies who used the baby media and those who didn’t. The only difference was in the parents’ beliefs that their child was learning to read in the treatment group.