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Maine Expert: No Need for Videos to Help Babies Learn

A University of Maine professor says families don't have to spend money on videos to introduce babies and young children to reading. It's as simple as sitting down with them daily to enjoy a book. (Ldorfman)
A University of Maine professor says families don't have to spend money on videos to introduce babies and young children to reading. It's as simple as sitting down with them daily to enjoy a book. (Ldorfman)
March 28, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine - New England children's advocates say a video learning series is back at it again, making "unfounded claims" about infants' ability to read and learn.

In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission imposed a $148 million judgement against Dr. Robert Titzer and his "Your Baby Can Read!" videos.

A new complaint says the company simply changed the name of the video series and continues to make unfounded claims.

Susan Bennett-Armistead is an early-literacy professor at the University of Maine.

She says videos overall lack the ability to interact and provide the human contact that is vital to early learning.

"So, if I'm reading to my baby, I'm looking at her face," says Bennett-Armistead. "I might notice that she's maybe drifting in her attention, so I'm going to make my voice a little louder or a little quieter, or I'm going to do something to regain her attention. And a video is static, it can't respond in those same ways."

Armistead says Maine is ranked among the top states in the nation for parents reading aloud to children. She notes it doesn't require a big investment, as books can be checked out from the local library.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed the FTC complaint against the Infant Learning Company with the FTC, asking the commission to enforce the 2012 consent order.

On its website, the Infant Learning Company, maker of "Your Baby Can Learn!," continues to defend its product, claiming it is one of the most-studied baby products in the world and that studies show no negative effects.

Josh Golin, executive director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says the video series has a history of pitching to lower-income families.

"And that's heartbreaking, when you think about a parent thinking if they spend this money, that this product will give their child a leg up," he says. "When, in fact, what we know is that babies don't learn anything from watching videos, let alone a complex skill like reading."

Golin points out the videos take time away from what he calls the "best thing parents can do," which is spending a few minutes a day reading to their children.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME