Recent Complaints Allege that "Your Baby Can Read" Products Do Not, in Fact, Teach Your Baby to Read

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in California against the makers of “Your Baby Can Read” products. The complaint was filed on behalf of a class of consumers who purchased the infant and toddler educational programs based on the company’s claims regarding the effectiveness of its products. Television and radio advertisements for the products in question allegedly made false and misleading claims, including claims that the early language development system could teach a three-month-old baby to read by nine months of age, could enable a five-year old to read at a junior high school level, and could teach infants with Down syndrome how to read.

According to the complaint, such claims made by the company simply are not supported by scientific evidence. Criticism of the company’s products and allegedly misleading advertisements, it seems, has grown in recent weeks. reports that the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a national watchdog group that previously successfully campaigned to change the way that the “Baby Einstein” program marketed its products, has filed a separate complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that makers of “Your Baby Can Read” have engaged in deceptive marketing practices to convince parents to buy its products. It has requested that the FTC stop the company from continuing its allegedly deceptive marketing practices, and that it offer full refunds to “all those parents who have been duped.”

The problem with the educational products seems to be two-fold. First, doctors and scientists who have tested the products have reportedly found that infants using the products are not reading, but rather are memorizing the shapes of the letters presented. There is no evidence, the class-action plaintiffs allege, that this memorization process increases a child’s ability to read or comprehend. Second, a representative for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood points out that the program is actually harmful to children, as it encourages them to sit in front of television screens and computer monitors, getting them “hooked on screens” too early in life. In fact, the group notes that if parents follow the “Your Baby Can Read” instructions, after nine months, babies would have spent more than a full week of 24 hour days in front of a screen.

It remains to be seen what effect these two recent complaints will have on the maker of the infant educational products and on its approach to advertising. It seems that the old-fashioned approach to teaching your children to read – by reading aloud to them – triumphs.