16 April, 2010

Are you aware that when I upload a lot of pictures I actually write the blog entry BACKWARDS?

I used to want to be an editor. I like marking up papers and being right, and it's the only thing one can do with a Bachelor's in English Linguistics without going to graduate school or learning how to program computers. It was pretty much my only chance to be employable, so I went with it. Then I took an editing class where we practiced editing real material, and I hated it more than I have ever hated anything in my life.

I think it's because people can be real idiots, and I have no patience for it. If you can't write, why are you writing a book? No, your writing is terrible. YOU shut up. My career as an editor would have been short-lived. Or I would have become an agent within a matter of weeks.

Seemingly unrelated tangent!

Have you ever heard of the infant literacy program Your Baby Can Read? It's like the poor man's Baby Einstein. Although unlike Baby Einstein, YBCR hasn't been sued for false advertising ... yet.

Basically it's a really expensive set of videos and books that you show to your baby in an effort to jumpstart his or her reading abilities. You're supposed to show your baby this video EVERY SINGLE COTTON-PICKING DAY and supplement the little angel's intellectual development with the books and flashcards (not included). In both the video and the books, they show a word, then a picture of what the word represents. That's it. Also, the program is much more expensive than a gross of post-its.

Your Baby Can Read was developed by Robert C. Titzer, Ph.D., who is an infant researcher and most likely a super guy. I applaud his chutzpah in convincing helicopter parents to invest that kind of money in anything. But seriously, the program is a crock. It's not gonna hurt anyone, but it's not gonna turn your baby smart, either. You might as well be showing the kids "Days of Our Lives." That's on every day, too.

Here's the thing. Your baby CAN'T read. Humans don't develop the focus ability and brain matter to read until around age three. If you show your kid a video EVERY FREAKING DAY, of course he or she will memorize the symbols and associate them with the images that accompany them. But that's not reading, that's symbol recognition. Infants can't grasp phonics or any of the other complex mental processes that reading requires. Any parents within the sound of my voice: don't waste your money.

One caveat. I suppose someone could argue that showing your kid this video every day is technically better than plunking him or her in front of "As the World Turns" for forty minutes every day. I mean, at least he's being quiet and not subjected to any inappropriate material, right?

Point taken. But here's the thing. If you sit a child under the age of three in front of television, you must acknowledge what you are doing. You are trying to keep that child occupied. And that's OK! Kids are exhausting and it's hard to get stuff done when they are constantly underfoot. But don't try to convince yourself that your child is benefiting from any really expensive video more than he would benefit or not benefit from a Disney video or even a string of commercials. Kids like TV because it's flashy and keeps up with their attention span. It doesn't make kids smarter. The End.

Also, I totally use Curious George as leverage for good behavior with D so I have half an hour to make her dinner. See? But like I said, I own that. I know that's what I'm doing.

The Your Baby Can Read series, besides being obviously fraudulent, is entertaining in other ways as well. For one, the video was made on a minuscule budget, using youtube-quality clips of what are obviously the author's own children and the author's own home. The budget may have been blown on a three-minute piece of computer animation that accompanies "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." One can't say for sure.

The books are also unintentionally funny. Observe. Each page has a word, as shown.

When one lifts the flap with the word written on it, one finds an image defining what the letters stand for.

Not all of the images are this creepy, but you get the idea.

So the kicker is, while the good folks at Your Baby Can Read were putting these books together, it was obvious that they weren't really going for a sense of cohesion. For one thing, the words come in no discernible order. They aren't ordered by subject matter or difficulty or phonetics or anything. Each book gets, in a very unquantifiable way, progressively "harder," but within the books the words seem sort of tossed in without any rhyme or reason.

Since each word has another random word facing it on the opposite page, this leads to some interesting two-page spreads.

Some of them create a mental image that seems logical.

Or charming.

Or sorta funny.

Or REALLY funny.

(This is only funny if you are eight years old)
(Which I am)

The above one is good, but I do believe this one is my favorite.

Literally speaking.

Some of them sound like exotic diseases.

I'm picturing Joseph Merrick in dental form. Ouch.

This one can't be comfortable, either.

Or perhaps an ancient, obscure martial arts move.

Hi-YA! Chimpanzee kick!!!

Others just sound like playground insults.


Hey, four eyes!!
Shut up, cat toes!!!!!

Some of them seem even a little sinister.

Thinly-veiled subliminal racism, anyone?

Does this seem like a fat joke, or am I being hypersensitive?

P.S. Hi, Dr. Titzer! Google yourself much? Rest assured this is all in good fun.
P.P.S. But seriously, food for thought, right? Did this occur to your editor(s) at all?
P.P.P.S. Your daughters are adorable. I wish you and your family all the best.


Ashley said...

I laughed SO hard at this. You rock.

The best way to distract Kendra is to compile a playlist of videos of herself. She often won't sit still for Disney for more than a minute or two, but videos of babies--she is HOOKED.

I agree with parents needing to own it. Call it like ya see it, y'know?

Paige said...

This principle is why my girls knew how to count to 10 in Spanish by the time they were 2 -- thank you Dora.

Those are some awesome word combos, you monkey bucket.

Rachel S said...


Audrey said...

I also took an editing class at BYU and it was the worst class ever. I hated it so much and it completely turned me off to editing as a career, which is too bad when you're almost done with your English Language degree! Hooray for awesomely fun yet completely useless majors.

tortoiseknight said...

This was a blog that we all passed around the office. So hilarious. This actually inspired me to start my own little blog. You're awesome!

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