Can Babies Really Read?
A new study published in Psychological Science “presents empirical evidence that infants who watched an unidentified baby video did not actually learn the words the video purported to teach.”
According to the Association for Psychological Science (APS), researchers recruited 96 families with children 12 -18 months old to participate in the month-long study, which was led by Judy S. DeLoache, PhD, of the University of Virginia.
Some children in the study reportedly watched a best-selling infant-learning DVD several times a week, half of them watching alone and half with a parent. Another group had no exposure to the DVD; instead, their parents were asked to try to teach them the words from the DVD in everyday interactions.
The study’s release follows a recent report on NBC’s Today show questioning the effectiveness of educational videos and other media publishers say teach infants to read. In the report, the owner of one company disputes statements by childhood development experts who believe babies exposed to the educational materials learn to mimic rather than comprehend words.
In the DeLoache-led study, before and after the month of vocabulary work, all of the children were tested on a list of words in the DVD.
According to APS, the researchers say, “Those infants who regularly watched the DVD over 4 weeks learned very little from their exposure to it, regardless of whether they had watched alone or with a parent. They knew no more of the words from the DVD than did children who had never seen it.”
Interestingly, the researchers say parents who enjoyed the DVD believed their children learned more, which, according to APS, could explain positive testimonials on the manufacturers’ websites and advertisements.
Watch DeLoache explain the study here.
Children are going to learn language anyway, says DeLoache, who adds research shows the best way to help children learn language well is simply talking to them.
“If you want to show your infant 'baby videos,' that's fine,” she says. “Just don't expect the child to learn a great deal from it."