Most parents believe that baby media products such as DVDs help babies learn to read. A new study negates the popular belief.
While parents use DVDs and other media in an attempt to teach their little ones to read, these tools do not instil reading skills in babies, researchers at New York University (NYU) have found.
"While we cannot say with full assurance that infants at this age cannot learn printed words, our results make clear they did not learn printed words from the baby media product that was tested," said senior author Susan Neuman, a professor at NYU's Steinhardt's department of teaching and learning.
"It's clear that parents have great confidence in the impact of these products on their children. However, our study indicates this sentiment is misplaced," she added.
The researchers examined 117 infants, aged 9-18 months, who were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups.
Children in the treatment condition received a baby media product, which included DVDs, word and picture flashcards, and flipbooks to be used daily over a seven-month period.
Children in the control condition did not receive these materials from the researchers.
Over the course of seven months, the researchers conducted a home visit, four laboratory visits and monthly assessments of language development.
To test children's emerging skills in the laboratory, the researchers examined the capacity to recognise letter names, letter sounds, vocabulary, words identified on sight, and comprehension.
Using a state-of-the art eye-tracking technology, which follows even the slightest eye movements, the researchers closely monitored how the infants distributed their attention and how they shifted their gaze from one location to another when shown specific words and phrases.
The study appeared in the Journal of Educational Psychology.