New Study Confirms Instructional Media Can't Teach Babies To Read
February 26, 2014

New Study Confirms Instructional Media Can’t Teach Babies To Read

[ Watch the Video: Can Babies Really Learn To Read? ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Despite the availability of DVDs and other media products claiming to help babies learn to read, these goods don’t actually instill reading skills in infants, according to new research appearing in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

“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,” senior author Susan Neuman, a professor researchers at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said Tuesday in a statement.

In order to test whether or not these media products could actually help infants develop reading skills, Neuman and colleagues from Lakehead University, the University of Toronto and the University of Michigan examined 117 babies between the ages of nine and 18 months who were randomly placed in treatment or control groups.

Those babies in the treatment group were given a baby media product such as a DVD, a set of word and picture flashcards or a flip book while the children in the control group did not. The treatment group infants used the products daily over a seven-month span as researchers conducted one home visit, four laboratory visits, and monthly assessments of language development for both the treatment and control groups.

Neuman’s team tested the reading skills in the laboratory by having them recognize the names and sounds of letters, as well as their vocabulary, their ability to identify words on sight, and their reading comprehension levels. A mixture of eye-tracking tasks and standardized measures were used to study outcomes at each developmental stage.

“Using a state-of-the art eye-tracking technology, which follows even the slightest eye movements, the researchers were able to closely monitor how the infants distributed their attention and how they shifted their gaze from one location to another when shown specific words and phrases,” the university explained.

The results of the research, which included criterion and standardized measures of emergent and early reading skills, found no noticeable difference between those babies who had been exposed to the media-based learning tools and the control group on all but one of the 14 assessments conducted.

The lone exception was the parent’s belief that the children were learning new words, despite evidence to the contrary. On exit interviews with the parents, Neuman said that moms and dads had “great confidence” that their children were learning to read and had benefited from the use of such programs. Her team’s findings indicate that their faith in those educational DVDs and other vocabulary development tools is “misplaced.”