Teaching My Baby To Read

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Glenn Doman and Magical Thinking

(Don’t buy this!)

When Bruce was one and a half I came across Glenn Doman’s How to Teach Your Baby to Read in a used bookstore.  I bought it, and quickly read it cover to cover.  His idea that you could use giant flashcards to teach small babies to read had me hooked, and I was eager to see if this method worked.

I made the flashcards and gave it a good three months, about when Bruce was 18-21 months.  At the same time, I was also teaching him his ABCs and sounds using the videos “ABCs and Such” and some good old fashioned play-time with ABC blocks.  Maybe this messed up the Glenn Doman Gentle Revolution method, so it didn’t work.  I don’t know.  Doman does NOT want you to teach children their letters or sounds.  He just wants you to concentrate on flashcards, and reading books to children.

After a while, I honestly gave up on the flashcards.  It just didn’t seem to be working.  But boy did I want it to!  So when Jenna was born, I shelled out the $70 to buy the “Teach Your Baby to Read” video, also from Glenn Doman.  That was a waste of money, because it was basically a lecture of Glenn Doman’s daughter telling you the exact same things as was in the book.  What bugged me was that they never showed any evidence.  They said that there were babies who could read, but they never showed them.

So, did the Gentle Revolution method work for Bruce?  No, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a strong reader by age four.   A combination of phonics and whole language instruction were what did it.

That being said, I still think that Glenn Doman has some interesting ideas and theories, the main being that there is a window of opportunity in young children when it is much easier to teach them how to read or learn a language, than it will be in later life.  This is the same theory Maria Montessori promoted, and boy and I a believer.  But I sure do wish I had saved my money on Glenn Doman propaganda.  I didn’t even tell you about the money I spent on those darn “Teach Your Baby Math” flashcards!


  1. Tracy says:

    I think with the Glenn Doman approach either some children take to flashcards or they don’t. The earlier you start them , mostly before they are able to move around , the better off you are.
    But with that said there are so many other things out on the market today. There is Your Baby Can Read, Monkisee, Brillkids that they make this ‘just the flashcard’ approach seem ‘old news’. Especially when children are used to television .
    I started my youngest much later beacuse I never knew little ones could read. I had never met anyone who had a little one reading so therefore I was only familiar with the start them at 5 or 6yrs old.
    But my youngest was 4 and we started with Your Baby Can Read. We moved on to Monkisee and now we are using a combination of Monkisee and Brillkids., and my daughter at almost the age of 5 (not til Aug 8th) is reading at a 1st grade level and she is in the mood for flashcards now.
    But as always every child’s mileage may vary and not every child picks up to the method.
    I had two out of four children pick up on phonics instruction and they are good readers too. Just depends on the child.
    I do know that there is a new phonics program coming out really soon that will be free.

    • jenbrdsly says:

      Interesting! I’ve never heard from anyone who actually had the Glenn Doman method work with young infants. But I can see how using it or another program might work at 4. Thank you for sharing.

  2. L says:

    I wanted to thank you for sharing your blog. I have occasionally read some over the past month (found from your signature on WTM), and became more interested after your post about cyber-bullying. And now I just want to support you! I love that you’ve tried different methods and that you approach new ones with an uncommon, non-judgmental, innocence. That is truly a rare gem, and I hope you keep it!

    I have also played with Glen Doman’s ideas. From what I’ve seen, the reading program CAN work, but it is generally through a combination of methods that usually provides results. I’ve had more success teaching my child through phonics than through whole words, though I’m still attempting both. I do whole-heartedly agree that teaching younger children to read may be easier than teaching older children to read, and it’s sad that this is an often overlooked idea. (I’m also a convert for early-and easier!-toilet training, which was commonplace a few generations ago).

    • jenbrdsly says:

      Thank you for your comments! I think what really turned me off about Glenn Doman was the math red-dot cards. I haven’t posted about that part, but I even bought the instructional DVD that went with it. What really bothered me was that they never showed actual babies who were able to know the cards. They just claimed that babies would be able to do this, but never showed evidence on the DVD. Maybe if I lived in Philadelphia and got to tour the institute I’d be a convert.

  3. Lezah St Jean says:

    I used a very loose Doman method…
    My son could identify over 50 Fry words shortly before his 2nd birthday, if he had a selection to choose from. Generally, if he had to choose 1 out of 3 he was correct well over 90% of the time. He was a nonverbal at the time, and is still a little speech delayed. But at 28 months he is still doing ok with his words. His accuracy has dropped to about 70-80% but he can do more words. And he can read some aloud, as in being able to speak, the words. That is more dependent on his verbal ability.
    The reason for his accuracy drop is because when he turned 2 he started to gravitate more towards phonics, then he moved on to math. I let his interests guide me. We just weren’t reinforcing his words on a daily or bi daily basis, and he seems to have forgotten many words he knew flawlessly.

    As far as phonics goes…. My son certainly knows all his sounds. I taught him sounds with lower case letters before introducing him to their names or their uppercase counterparts. He is able to recreate CVC words if he has a limited selection of letters. However, oddly, be cannot do it in left to right order. He often puts down the /t/ in cat then the /a/ then the /c/. Sometimes the vowel is first. But the initial sound is always last.
    He is unable to decode a word /c/ /a/ /t/. However if he knows the word by sight he can read it. Cat, dog, mama, dada, car, bus and others he knows by recognizing the whole word.

    • jenbrdsly says:

      Thanks for sharing. You sound like a great mom and teacher! I think your son’s experience demonstrates how a combination of phonics and Whole Language can really work well together, which is the basic tenants of Balanced Literacy Instruction. Your son is learning to read from both sides of the camp, and that is only going to make his skills grow stronger and stronger (in my opinion). Some hard-core phonics people would disagree. But are there two year olds reading yet? 🙂

  4. Victoria Reeve says:

    Thirty years ago, I used Dr. Doman’s methods for teaching both reading and math with my son, beginning at about 8 months of age. By the time he entered kindergarten at age 5, he had mastered the entire public school curriculum up to and including the fourth grade level. Sounds like a success story, but there was a huge down-side. My son had great difficulty in finding any common ground with his classmates. He was also unutterably bored with school and remained that way all through university. Things worked out very well eventually, but not without a great deal of trial, error and perseverence. Balance is key.

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