by Glenn Doman , Founder of The Institutes

From time to time I have been asked why I thought it was a good thing for a mother to teach her baby to read. As the author of How To Teach Your Baby To Read, I suppose that is a fair question, so I should give it a fair answer.

I think that it is a wonderful thing for a mother (or father) to teach her baby to read for a number of reasons:

1. It is easier to teach a two-year-old to read at home than it is to teach a six-year-old at school. Much easier.

2. Since babies would rather learn than do anything else in the world, and would rather be with their parents than with anyone else in the world, there are few activities as joyous for mothers and babies as learning-to-read sessions.

3. Reading is the very basis of all learning and the acquisition of knowledge, and if mother teaches her baby to read at one, two, or three years of age he will not fail to learn to read in school at six, seven, or eight years of age. Literacy and success go hand-in-hand, and illiteracy and failure go hand-in-hand. This is true in nations, in states, in cities, and in neighborhoods, and is especially true in individuals.

4. It is a wondrous thing for a baby, or child, or an adult to be able to read.

5. By no means the last of the reasons why we think it is splendid for a baby to read, but the last I shall list, may seem the least important. I think it's the most important.

We parents go through all the early years of baby's life, taking care of the running noses, the dirty diapers, the sheer horror of losing sight of the tiny child on the crowded beach for thirty seconds which seem like an hour, the frantic silent prayers on the way to the hospital at 2 a.m. with the five-year-old's temperature rising to a new world record, and all the other prices we pay so willingly for the joy and privilege of squeezing that beloved tiny body and beholding that beautiful little face.

Then when, as custom has had it, at six years of age, it becomes time to introduce him to all the golden and glorious things that have been written in his own language and in others, and thus to open the truly magic door to all knowledge and all that is beautiful in this world, we turn him over to a stranger called a teacher, and pray that the teacher will know what a truly brilliant and eager-to-know mind this most exceptional of all children has.

Having put up with all the loving problems, we are entitled to all the loving fun to be had in teaching our babies to read, and in so doing, to lift our babies on to our shoulders and say, "Behold, my child, the world in all its splendor. It is our gift to you."

The truth is that we expose children to reading too late. By six years of age the ability to take in raw facts, whether auditory (spoken) or visual (written), without the slightest effort is just about gone. If children did not hear words until they were six years old, we would have another staggering educational problem to match the present staggering reading problem and a flood of books with titles like Why Johnny Can't Talk.

It is easier to teach a five-year-old to read than it is to teach a six-year-old. It is easier at four than at five, easier at three than four, easier at two than at three, easier at one than at two and easiest of all (for the baby) below one.

The superb truth is that babies take in raw facts such as written and spoken words at a rate that no adult could come close to matching.

Babies are linguistic geniuses and no adult who values his ego should get himself into a foreign language learning contest with any baby. To your eleven-day-old baby, English is a foreign language. By three he'll have completely functional use of English, which he'll speak with a perfect American accent. Don't you try to match that three years from now with a foreign language you heard for the first time eleven days ago.

In order for a baby to learn spoken words, there are three requirements from a neurophysiological standpoint. The words must be spoken loudly, clearly, and repeatedly in order for his immature auditory pathway to understand and remember. All mothers understand this instinctually and speak to their babies in loud, clear, repeated words. The result is that all well babies have a functional use of their mother tongue by three. Indeed, it is this very process of speaking to a baby in a loud, clear, repeated voice that physically grows his brain's auditory pathway.

Learning to understand spoken language through the ear is not a school subject, it is a brain function. So also is learning language through the eye a brain function rather than a school subject.

Why, then, do not all babies learn to read spontaneously as they learn to speak spontaneously?

The problem is that we have made the print too small.

In order for a baby to read words, there are three requirements. The print must be large, clear, and repeated. The baby's immature visual pathways are not able to deal with small print. Indeed, it is the very process of showing the baby large words which physically grow and mature his brain's visual pathway.

All that the mother of a two-year-old has to do to prove this to herself is to get a piece of white poster board, with a red marker print the word Mommy clearly in letters six inches high, and show it to her baby a half dozen times an hour apart, saying in a happy excited voice, "This says Mommy."

Don't test him; just tell him. Soon he'll tell you. Hundreds of thousands of mothers have taught their babies to read this way, which is a wonderful thing indeed.

by Glenn Doman, Founder

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential