The Associated Press reports that Boston-based advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has asked the Federal Trade Commission to ban all advertisements for the instructional product Your Baby Can Read. The campaign says claims that the product can teach infants to read are false and deceptive. The group has led a series of campaigns against what critics have labeled the “genius baby” industry.
More than 1 million families have used Your Baby Can Read
The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company Your Baby Can LLC developed the Your Baby Can Read program in the late 1990s under the leadership of Indiana University human performance PhD Robert Titzer. The company sold more than 1 million copies of the product, according to the company’s website. Your Baby Can Read is advertised primarily on television, and the company has an online presence via a corporate website, Facebook and YouTube. The deluxe version of the product, which consists of a series of videos, is available online and costs $200.
Understanding the Your Baby Can Read controversy
The Your Baby Can Read website makes the claim that the best time to begin teaching a child to read is as young as infancy, as the brain develops “nearly 90 percent” during the first five years. “Seize this small window of opportunity” is the marketing message Your Baby Can LLC posits. Many childhood education experts consider Your Baby Can Read’s claims outlandish, and that is the focus of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s claim against the company. According to the complaint:
“(Your Baby Can Read) is designed to take advantage of parents’ natural desire to provide every possible advantage for their young children. The claims are false and misleading because the product does not teach babies to read.”
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood believes the FTC should stop Your Baby Can Read from making educational claims and facilitate the restitution of consumers who purchased the product. According to the Associated Press, Your Baby Can LLC CEO Denise Kovac continues to stand behind the product.
Critics take Your Baby Can Read to task
Independent consumer products website ConsumerSearch.com points out that a great deal of academic research exists that counters Dr. Titzer’s claims regarding Your Baby Can Read. While numerous parent testimonials on the company’s website give glowing praise, experts like Dr. Stephen Novella, a Yale University School of Medicine clinical neurologist, see the product as a gimmick and nothing more:
“Forcing kids to learn some task before their brains are naturally ready does not have any advantage,” said Novella. “The whole `baby genius’ industry for anxious parents is misguided. This is just the latest incarnation of this fiction.”
Associated Press: http://apne.ws/huxvBU
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/
Your Baby Can Read: http://www.yourbabycanread.com/
Your baby can read… Cervantes!
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