Can babies learn to read? No, NYU study finds

February 25, 2014

Can babies learn to read? While parents use DVDs and other media in an attempt to teach their infants to read, these tools don't instill reading skills in babies, a study by researchers at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development has found.

"While we cannot say with full assurance that infants at this age cannot learn printed words, our results make clear they did not learn printed words from the baby media product that was tested," says Susan Neuman, a professor in NYU Steinhardt's Department of Teaching and Learning and the study's senior author.

However, Neuman adds, there was one undeniable effect of these products--on parents. In exit interviews, there was the belief among parents that their babies were learning to read and that their children had benefited from the program in some areas of vocabulary development.

"It's clear that parents have great confidence in the impact of these products on their children," Neuman explains. "However, our study indicates this sentiment is misplaced."

In their study, which appears in the Journal of Educational Psychology, the researchers examined 117 infants, aged nine to 18 months, who were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Children in the treatment condition received a baby media product, which included DVDs, word and picture flashcards, and flip books to be used daily over a seven-month period; children in the control condition did not receive these materials from the researchers. Over the course of seven months, the researchers conducted a home visit, four laboratory visits, and monthly assessments of language development.

To test children's emerging skills in the laboratory, the researchers examined the capacity to recognize letter names, letter sounds, vocabulary, words identified on sight, and comprehension. A combination of eye-tracking tasks and standardized measures were used to study outcomes at each stage of development. Using a state-of-the art eye-tracking technology, which follows even the slightest eye movements, the researchers were able to closely monitor how the infants distributed their attention and how they shifted their gaze from one location to another when shown specific words and phrases.

The results, which included criterion and standardized measures of emergent and early reading skills, showed no differences between the infants exposed to baby media and the control group on 13 of the 14 assessments. The only assessment that showed a difference was parents' beliefs that their child was learning new words despite countervailing evidence from a standardized measure indicating no differences between groups.
-end-
The study's other co-authors were: Tanya Kaefer of Canada's Lakehead University, Ashley Pinkham of the University of Michigan, and Gabrielle Strouse of the University of Toronto.

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development (@NYUSteinhardt)

Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media, and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu.

New York University

Related Learning Articles from Brightsurf:

Learning the language of sugars
We're told not to eat too much sugar, but in reality, all of our cells are covered in sugar molecules called glycans.

When learning on your own is not enough
We make decisions based on not only our own learning experience, but also learning from others.

Learning more about particle collisions with machine learning
A team of Argonne scientists has devised a machine learning algorithm that calculates, with low computational time, how the ATLAS detector in the Large Hadron Collider would respond to the ten times more data expected with a planned upgrade in 2027.

Getting kids moving, and learning
Children are set to move more, improve their skills, and come up with their own creative tennis games with the launch of HomeCourtTennis, a new initiative to assist teachers and coaches with keeping kids active while at home.

How expectations influence learning
During learning, the brain is a prediction engine that continually makes theories about our environment and accurately registers whether an assumption is true or not.

Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.

Learning is optimized when we fail 15% of the time
If you're always scoring 100%, you're probably not learning anything new.

School spending cuts triggered by great recession linked to sizable learning losses for learning losses for students in hardest hit areas
Substantial school spending cuts triggered by the Great Recession were associated with sizable losses in academic achievement for students living in counties most affected by the economic downturn, according to a new study published today in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Lessons in learning
A new Harvard study shows that, though students felt like they learned more from traditional lectures, they actually learned more when taking part in active learning classrooms.

Learning to look
A team led by JGI scientists has overhauled the perception of inovirus diversity.

Read More: Learning News and Learning Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.