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FTC: Your baby can read, but probably not at 9 months

When my son, Jonathan, was just under a year old, we ordered the “Your Baby Can Read” DVD collection, which uses a combination of videos, flash cards and pop-up books. He would watch intently as the words flashed across the TV screen and his favorite part of the DVDs were the songs including, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

We then would use the flash cards to test his knowledge. At a little over a year old, our son could read the words elephant, wave, nose and gorilla, which sounded more like o-rigg-a, but we knew what he meant.

We didn’t start Jonathan when he was very young so I can’t say whether he would have been reading at nine months, as claimed by the company, but the Federal Trade Commission seems to think he would not have been.

The FTC has filed a complaint against Robert Titzer, the man behind the “Your Baby Can Read” program accusing him of false and deceptive advertising for promoting his program in ads and product packaging as a tool to teach infants as young as nine months to read.

According to the FTC, Titzer and the company did studies to back up the claims, but the agency says those studies were flawed. The company Your Baby Can Read, which announced it was going out of business earlier this year, and its president and chief executive until March 2010, Hugh Penton Jr., also were named in the complaint. Both have agreed to settle the charges.

I think it’s awesome that my son can read several words and he’s only 2 years and 8 months old. Would I have been complaining if I had bought the system when he was newborn and not reading by the time he was nine months, probably not. For me that's too high of an expectation to put on any kid. But, that’s just me. There is no miracle product that will turn your child into a genius. Education is hard work and I think the system is helpful, but I never would have expected my child to be reading Newsday at nine months. And we still watch them, though not as much as he has turned his attention to “Dora the Explorer and “Little Einsteins,” but last night I pulled out a flash card and asked him to read it and he quickly responded, “Elephant.”

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