Why teach Reading Early?

The Promise of Early Reading

"Not only is it possible to teach babies to read; it's a great deal easier to teach babies to read than it is to teach six-year-olds," notes Glenn Doman.

This is because babies are naturally more gifted at language acquisition than six-year-olds.

Robert Titzer, creator of the Your Baby Can Read series of books and DVDs, explains:

There's a natural window of opportunity for learning language, and that window begins at birth and goes through [to] around age four years. And that's when it's easier for a baby to learn second languages, sign language, spoken language, or the written form of language. Usually people think of that as some difficult skill, but it doesn't have to be - it can be very natural if you learn as a baby.

Some critics of early reading claim that there are no long- or even medium-term benefits to learning to read as a baby - all of the advantages level out in early grade school, they say. However, several important research studies would appear to indicate otherwise.

How does learning to read before first grade impact on a child's future achievement in reading? The first researcher to seriously pose this question was Dolores Durkin, who from 1958 to 1964 conducted two longitudinal studies on early reading (defined as the ability to read whole words before first grade). Durkin tested US schoolchildren's IQs and reading abilities eight times over the course of six years. Writing in 1966, she concluded that:

  • Early readers maintained or increased their advantage over their non-early-reading peers between first and seventh grade. That advantage amounted to an average of two grade levels in reading ability.

  • Early reading had very little to do with IQ, and everything to do with a child's home environment. There was a wide range in IQ among early readers, but the children tended to come from families that were more willing to help them learn to read.

  • Socio-economic status was irrelevant. Instead, the early readers tended to come from families with parents who took the time to read with their children and who emphasized the value of reading.

Can early reading help prevent dyslexia?