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Bill Buckholtz (left) uses flashcards to work with his grandaughter, Mia Buckholtz, 2 1/2. Mia has already learned to read using a system developed by Dr. Robert Titzer.

June 15, 2007 - 1:34PM

Expert: Your baby can read

This article brought to you by the letter B

When Adriana Velasquez started her 8-month-old on a revolutionary program intended to teach toddlers to read, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

When her young son Roman, at age 16 months, read his first word, she was an instant believer.

“I was surprised and shocked; I thought it was magic,” Velasquez said. “He started with the videos at 8 months, and he read his first word at 16 months. 'Cat.’ It was so fast. He read 'cat’ one day, and the next day he was reading five words. By 17 months he was just gone.”

Velasquez spoke Tuesday from an Ahwatukee Foothills home, where a resident was hosting a “baby book club” party for parents who had introduced their children to the Your Baby Can Read program ( The program, developed by infant development expert Dr. Robert Titzer, is aimed at taking advantage of infants’ proclivity toward learning language.

“All children have a natural window for language, and that window starts to close at about age 4,” Titzer said. “No one would wait until age 5 to start talking to their children. But we’re doing that right now with reading.”

Mountains of research exist that show young children more easily pick up second languages than adults, a development Titzer chalks up to the increased neuroplasticity of children.

“Neuroplasticity” refers the expansion of the brain and the creation of new areas of brain activity, and the creation of new synaptic paths wherein thoughts are transmitted.

“It’s positively related to neuroplasticity,” Titzer said. “Seventy-five percent of the brain’s mass is formed by age 2; 90 percent by age 5. There are long-term studies that show the earlier a child is taught to read the better, even when controlling for IQ and socioeconomic status.”

Titzer’s program, developed in the late '80s and early '90s while he was a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, takes advantage of the youngsters’ growing brains. His program uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching, reading that he says both parents’ testimonies and extensive research support as successful.

So confident was he in his method that his first test subject was his own daughter,
“Initially I thought she had just memorized the order of the words,” Titzer said. “I was shocked; I had no idea. It blows your mind, but she was learning words watching Disney videos - which was probably not a good thing - but she was picking up a lot of words.”
His daughter, now 16, is his example of a longitudinal case study gone right.

“She does extremely well on any test she takes,” Titzer said. “Any kind of reading comprehension test is just easy for her. She got a perfect score on her SAT verbal test, for example.”

An academic leg-up was why Velasquez put her son Roman through the program.

“It will give him a good head start, especially in school,” she said. “He’s 20 months old now and he reads words off of advertisements. He’ll read words off of people’s T-shirts.”

There are two frequent criticisms Titzer has heard lobbed at his program. One is that foisting education methods on children that young will lead them to a disinterest in learning down the road.

“There’s no evidence of any kind whatsoever, no evidence at all,” he said. “The opposite is, in fact, true. The children who were taught to read earlier enjoy reading more than children taught to read later.”

The other criticism is that children who get advanced at such an early age may have problems adjusting with their peers socially later, but Titzer points out that subjects he’s seen have plenty of friends and do fine socially.

So why the criticisms?

“People often think it’s too good to be true and there’s something negative about it,” he said. “But there’s nothing negative about it.”

Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or

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