What every best has:
It's easy to find academic researchers and educators who dispute Titzer's claims. Some experts also criticize the program for relying almost solely on teaching visual word recognition, instead of teaching the child to sound out words phonetically. Titzer says as children figure out how to pronounce words and recognize patterns, they accumulate a sizable vocabulary.
"Your Baby Can Read" also comes in for criticism on the grounds that it uses a TV. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recommendation that parents avoid letting infants and toddlers under the age of 2 watch any TV or video at all. Studies of the effects of TV on language development and later educational success offer mixed conclusions.
Despite these criticisms of "Your Baby Can Read," many parents say the expensive program works -- not necessarily for all infants and toddlers, but certainly for some. There's no evidence that learning to read at an early age actually leads to greater success in school or in life, but many parents think it might. We found more positive reviews from parents than complaints.
Even fairly enthusiastic parents do note some drawbacks, however. Given the high price, the DVDs strike many parents as amateurish and poorly produced. Both the DVDs and the accompanying cards and books are often judged too fragile to hold up under a toddler's use. The most frequent complaint, however, is that the program is boring and fails to hold a child's attention.
Some parents say the "Baby Einstein" videos are much more entertaining, holding kids' attention for a full 30 minutes. However, this misses a crucial distinction between the two programs. The "Baby Einstein" videos are sometimes used by parents as a babysitting device. Most parents who've used the "Your Baby Can Read" program say the DVDs are far too boring to be used this way.
The crucial distinction is that "Your Baby Can Read" is designed to be used with the parent's full participation, and in a flexible, fun way -- with the 30-minute session only a target, not a fixed rule for all kids. In other words, this program is a teaching tool for the parent, and requires quite an investment of the parent's time. This would also seem to counter the criticism that infants or toddlers shouldn't watch TV because it's passive and doesn't involve interaction with live people. "Your Baby Can Read" is designed to be active and multisensory. Titzer recommends reading to your child and notes that parents can make videos and flash cards on their own.
Given the lack of long-term studies and hard evidence about such a program, the decision would seem to come down to whether or not you want to spend at least an hour a day teaching reading -- and believe there's a good chance that doing so will benefit your child. Without that much parental involvement, reviews say there's not much chance of the program working.
We found a good mix of reviews by professionals and parents. The NeuroLogica Blog on neurology includes detailed comments citing pros and cons. Articles at BrillBaby.com focus on a variety of approaches to teaching a child to read, including a detailed review of "Your Baby Can Read." A FAQ page at PBS.org provides specific answers about the effects of watching TV and DVDs on children. More than 100 parents review and rate "Your Baby Can Read" in two different lists at Amazon.com, and additional reviews can be found at Epinions.com. A Baltimore TV station weighs in on the program, too, based on one family's positive experience with the program. An article at Wikipedia on the program's author, Robert Titzer, provides additional information, as does TeachYourBaby.com, Titzer's blog.