Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
It always seemed too good to be true. And now the Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint against the man who created the “Your Baby Can Read!” program, accusing him of false and deceptive advertising.
Promoted in infomercials and on the Internet, the program was said to help babies as young as nine months old learn to read with videos, flash cards, and pop-up books.
The FTC filed the complaint against Robert Titzer, the product’s creator, as well as the company, Your Baby Can, and Hugh Penton, Jr., who served as president and chief executive officer of the company until March 2010. Both the company and Penton agreed to settle with the FTC.
The defendants began selling their program to parents and grandparents around January 2008, charging about $200 and taking in more than $185 million, the complaint says. In one infomercial for the product, a two-year-old girl is shown reading from the book “Charlotte’s Web.”
From the Associated Press:
The company, based in Carlsbad, Calif., announced earlier this year that it was going out of business. It cited the high cost of fighting complaints alleging that its ads were false.
Titzer, an educator with a doctorate in human performance from Indiana University, developed the program and appeared in many of the ads promoting the Your Baby Can Read videos and program. He was billed as a “recognized expert in infant learning.”
The FTC says he and the company did studies to back up the claims. But the agency says those studies were flawed.
Image: “Your Baby Can Read!” via The Miami Herald.
Add a Comment
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Thirteen-year-old William Hickman is “lucky to be alive” after a harrowing incident in which he was stranded by a waterfall in Washington state. Hickman cites the “Pendragon” series of fantasy books as having taught him the skills he needed to scramble to safety, as MSNBC.com reports:
Hickman was hiking Saturday with his father, 9-year-old brother and friends above Wallace Middle Falls, near the town of Gold Bar about 45 miles northeast of Seattle. He wanted to cool off.
“I wanted to go in … just to wade a little bit,” Hickman said at a Monday news conference, where he was joined by the people who staged a dramatic, middle-of the night operation.
But he slipped and the whitewater swept him over a 10-foot drop into a deep pool above the waterfall.
In the water, the teen quickly thought of advice from a fantasy-novel character Bobby Pendragon of the Pendragon Adventure books by D.J. MacHale: “Go feet first, stay to the sides and kick off the rocks,” the Seattle Times reported.
He managed to scramble onto a narrow rock shelf just before the main falls.
He stayed there, cold and wet, for the next eight and a half hours, Hickman and rescuers said. His father shouted encouragement, telling him he was going to be OK. Rescue crews later tossed him blankets, energy bars and fruit snacks.
Image: Waterfall, via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Monday, November 21st, 2011
Parents are putting down the tablets, smartphones, and other e-readers when it’s time to read to their kids, The New York Times is reporting. The article reveals that even parents who are loyal device readers themselves turn to old-fashioned “dead-tree” books at storytime:
This is the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals.
Parents also say they like cuddling up with their child and a book, and fear that a shiny gadget might get all the attention. Also, if little Joey is going to spit up, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet computer.
“It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s the wonderment of her reaching for a page with me,” said Leslie Van Every, 41, a loyal Kindle user in San Francisco whose husband, Eric, reads on his iPhone. But for their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Georgia, dead-tree books, stacked and strewn around the house, are the lone option.
“She reads only print books,” Ms. Van Every said, adding with a laugh that she works for a digital company, CBS Interactive. “Oh, the shame.”
Image: Parents reading to child, via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Thursday, August 11th, 2011
The Boston Globe is reporting on a small pilot study done by researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University that suggest that children who read aloud to dogs may develop better reading skills and a more favorable attitude toward reading. The Globe reports:
Over a five-week period last summer, 18 second-graders at the Grafton Public Library were randomly divided into two groups: for 30 minutes each week, half read aloud to a dog and half read to a person.
The children were allowed to choose whatever books they wanted, and read to the same dog each week, settling in on a large dog bed with their canine companion. Freeman noted that children seemed to prefer to read books about animals, seeming to want to choose stories the dogs could relate to.
“The kids seem to particularly like the dog-themed books; they seem to think the dogs really enjoy hearing about those,” [Tufts scientist Lisa] Freeman said. Those who read aloud to a person might be corrected or prompted if they made a mistake, while the children reading to the dogs would be corrected through the dogs, meaning that the handler might say something like, “I don’t think she understood that last word.”
At the end of the five weeks, the children’s abilities were measured. This was a small sample, and the results were not statistically significant, but researchers saw a signal of a difference, with an increase in the words read per minute by the children in the dog group, and a decrease among children who spent the time reading to humans.
The researchers also measured the change in the children’s attitudes toward reading using a survey that involved a cartoon cat — Garfield. The survey showed Garfield in a range of moods, from extremely satisfied to very upset, and was used to judge children’s attitudes toward reading. The dog reading group showed a slight favorable increase in their feelings toward reading, and the control group underwent a slight decrease. No children dropped out of the dog program, whereas a third of the children dropped out of the control group.
(image via: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/)
Add a Comment
Thursday, August 4th, 2011
Dyslexia, the learning disability that affects reading and spelling skills for an estimated 15-20 percent of the American population, may have an auditory component, a new study has found. The findings could have implications for how dyslexic children are taught in school. The New York Times reports:
Add a Comment
A study published last week in the journal Science suggests that how dyslexics hear language may be more important than previously realized. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that people with dyslexia have more trouble recognizing voices than those without dyslexia.
John Gabrieli, a professor of cognitive neuroscience, and Tyler Perrachione, a graduate student, asked people with and without dyslexia to listen to recorded voices paired with cartoon avatars on computer screens. The subjects tried matching the voices to the correct avatars speaking English and then an unfamiliar language, Mandarin.
Nondyslexics matched voices to avatars correctly almost 70 percent of the time when the language was English and half the time when the language was Mandarin. But people with dyslexia were able to do so only half the time, whether the language was English or Mandarin. Experts not involved in the study said that was a striking disparity.
“Typically, you see big differences in reading, but there are just subtle general differences between individuals who are afflicted with dyslexia and individuals who aren’t on a wide variety of tests,” said Richard Wagner, a psychology professor at Florida State University. “This effect was really large.”
Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University, said the study “demonstrates the centrality of spoken language in dyslexia — that it’s not a problem in meaning, but in getting to the sounds of speech.”
That is why dyslexic children often misspeak, she said, citing two examples drawn from real life. “A child at Fenway Park watching the Red Sox said, ‘Oh, I’m thirsty. Can we go to the confession stand?,’ ” she said.