Today I came across an article about the FTC filing a complaint against Robert Titzer, the creator of the “Your Baby Can Read” program. The FTC accuses him of false and deceptive advertising for promoting his program in ads on television, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Titzer claims that his product which is priced at $200 and contains videos, flashcards and pop-up books can teach a kid as young as nine months to read.
But this complaint and its apparent settlement involving a $185 million judgement is only the last nail in the coffin. As AP reports, the company already announced that it was going out of business earlier this year due the high costs fighting complaints.
Robert Titzer, an educator with a doctorate in human performance from Indiana University, and his company claimed that more than a million families successfully used the “Your Baby Can Read” program and that they had studies to back up these claims. The FTC on the other hand says those studies were flawed.
This is a common problem with products that claim to be backed by scientific research. It is relatively easy to wow parents with claims that cognitive science is the basis of a product or learning application as in general it is hard to prove.
But does this mean that toddlers are not clever enough to learn anything until a certain age? Well, another study revealed that there is actually a lot going on behind those innocent looking faces.
The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found that toddlers can comprehend right from wrong and apply those rules to different groups as well. For example, they only enforce game rules within their own language group and they can intuitively pick up on behavioral cues and adults' expectations of them. Which essentially means that if toddlers are not doing what they are expected to do this does not mean that they don’t understand that it’s wrong. They just want to mess with their parents.
Which brings me to one of the startups in the language learning space I have been following for about four years now: Lingueo. Very early on the team decided to offer sign languages besides the usual mix of foreign languages on their live teaching platform and the success of this particular vertical led them to the launch of sign language courses for toddlers. This course is currently only available in French, though.
According to Lingueo and its teachers, babies can easily learn simple signs to articulate their needs to their parents long before they are able to speak. This makes it of course a lot easier to understand why your toddler is actually crying. You can read more about this concept on Wikipedia.
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