Robert Titzer is an infant researcher and the creator of the Your Baby Can Read system for teaching babies to read. The Your Baby Can Read DVDs and books were first published in 1997.
The series' methods are based on Titzer's own infant research, including his personal experience of teaching his daughters, Aleka (born in 1991) and Keelin (born in 1994), to read as babies.
According to Titzer's own infant research, the optimum time for learning to read is the same as the optimum time for learning spoken languages and sign language. He writes, “Studies from all areas of language... show that it's easier to learn the patterns of language early in childhood compared to later in childhood.” While some may view reading as a task too complex for young children, Titzer says, “It's likely the brain will develop more efficiently for reading when the child learns to read early in childhood compared to later in childhood.”
Titzer notes that according to a 2002 study by Yale University, “Activating children's neural circuitry for reading early on is key.” How early on? According to Titzer, “The window for learning language begins to close by age four.” This implies that children who learn to read after the age of four may not develop the ideal neural circuitry for reading. The age at which reading instruction begins may govern not just a child's reading ability, but their attitude to reading as well. Says Titzer, “Children who are taught to read earlier prefer to read more than children who are taught at age five or later.”
Some critics maintain that there are only short-lived advantages to be gained from early reading. Yet, the Your Baby Can Read website cites several studies that suggest long-term benefits. “Early readers stay ahead of children who are taught later in life,” writes Titzer, and “Some research indicates that the gap between early readers and later readers actually increases over time. This is sometimes known as the Matthews Effect, where rich learners get richer and poor learners get poorer.”
Some critics believe learning to read early harms children emotionally, but according to Titzer, “Children who enter school with reading skills have higher self-esteem than children who cannot read when they enter school.” For him, the importance of learning to read early in life can hardly be overstated. “Reading is the most important skill a child learns,” he notes. “Reading increases learning skills, and it helps children succeed both in school and later in life.” The academic achievements of Titzer's daughters - straight A students who have each skipped at least one grade in school - stand testament to this. Aleka even began her second year of university at the age of 16.