Glenn Doman’s method of teaching a baby to read: in brief

Glenn Doman, the director of the Human Institute of Achievement of Human Potential, firmly believes that learning to read is the same skill as learning to talk and and to walk. Moreover, the years of study led him to the conclusion, that reading is not only what separates us from animals, but it also every human’s birthright. Therefore an opportunity for it should be offered as early as possible: if you can start right after birth, by all means do, but if your child is already older – don’t delay it any longer! Not everybody agrees with him. Feel free to find out more on opposition to the whole word method. And many of us wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity: for another point of view, read Elizabeth’s take on it in Whole word method – harmful for kids development?. First of all, Glenn Doman belives that kids are too smart to bore them with individual letters, phonics and other methods. Over the years of working with children, he discovered that you can teach your child to read in just 90 seconds a day. How? By showing them large whole words a few times a day (see more details in a brief summary of his method below). Is that all?! Well, almost. Glenn Doman’s recipe for success is the following:
  1. Mother (father or other primary caregiver) – Glenn Doman believes, that parents are the best teachers and it is their love and confidence in their children that provide their kids with the best inspiration, regardless if the they are staying at home with the child the whole day, or working and able to spend just a few hours a day.
  2. The attitude and approach – expect learning to be fun and the best possible game, the greatest adventure – and your child will enjoy it too: hugs, kisses, giggles – work much better then ability to sit still and listen. Learning should always take place when both parent and child are happy.
  3. The size and orderliness of reading material – the younger the baby, the bigger print should be used!
  4. Start as early as possible – the younger the child, the easier it is for him to learn
  5. Always stop before your baby wants to stop – one of the most important rules: the child should be begging for more. If your child gets tired after 5 slides, show him just 4, but leave him hungry for more.
  6. Don’t bore your child! – introduce new material often, show it quickly. If the child is not interested, probably you need to show it even faster, and update even more often!
  7. Consistency – it is better to show less words more often, more consistently, then more words occasionally. Kids learn by repetition. As long as you update your material often not to bore them…
  8. No testing! – testing is a sign of distrust, it is the opposite of fun. So, absolutely no testing. Though… there are some tricks that can keep your spirits up by showing that your child is actually learning, and will turn out to be even more fun for him!
Intrigued? Well, I was. You can read my personal opinion on why teach your children to read. Once you are done with the wonderful review of the method below, you can jump start your reading program! Update: Laurie Tiemens wrote a really brief and really straight to the point sequence of steps for teaching kids to read. You can find it on eHow: How to Teach Your Baby to Read. It is really Doman’s method in a nutshell. Please provide your rating and add a comment in the end! And now, the summary of the actual approach, kindly shared by Laurie Tiemens, the moderator of TeachYourBabyToRead group:

Summary of Glenn Doman’s Reading Program

Once you read this summary I urge you to get the book, How to Teach Your Baby to Read, by Glenn Doman . It explains things in so much more detail and gives you a good grasp on why this program works. Once you know the why’s it will help you to hang in there if things get tough. I offer this summary for those who are eager to get started right away.

Can a Baby Really Read?

Why Bother to Teach Your Baby to Read? Teaching your baby to read will cause your baby’s brain to grow. Brains grow with use just as muscles do. Babies’ brains are developing faster in infancy than they will in later childhood. Since they have a greater ability to adapt based on environment than older children, babies’ brains can possibly learn to read in a more efficient manner if a baby learns early. Children learn language skills faster and easier in infancy so it is easiest to teach them to read as babies than at any other time. Reading is one of the most important skills a parent can teach a child. Reading is fun for babies and toddlers. Learning to read puts them permanently ahead as proven in controlled studies. The window of opportunity for learning reading begins to close by age four. Learning to read influences many other aspects of a child’s life in a positive way.

Do babies want to learn to read?

Yes, because they want to learn everything! They are voracious knowledge hounds particularly for language, whether spoken and heard or printed and read.

When to Start a Reading Program

Good time to start – 3-4y, Better time to start 2-3y, Best time to start – 0-24mo

2 vital points:

  1. your attitude and approach

    1. joyous and enthusiastic, it must be approached as a superb *game*
    2. teach at a time of day when both you and your baby are happy
    3. best duration for reading sessions is 30 seconds or less
    4. always stop before he wants to.
    5. Introduce new material when your child is ready for it – follow his lead
    6. be consistent with doing your program
  2. size and orderliness of reading matter

    1. large size print – why? The size of the print is crucial to your success. Very young children have immature visual pathways. If the print is too small they get frustrated because they have to work so hard to see the type. If you and I had to read type that was too small we might not want to read either. See what I mean? You’re ready to stop, aren’t you?
    2. Make a gradual transition from large to small print and from words to couplets to short sentences to longer sentences one change at a time

Materials needed – Large word cards 4″ x 22″ (6″x 22″ if newborn)

  1. stiff paper that does not wobble like poster board – precut from or cut on paper cutter
  2. red words
    1. 3″ tall, (5″ if newborn)
    2. ½”-5/8″ thick stroke
    3. ½” margins
    4. print words using lower case letters
    5. after a few months you will start to progressively transition to normal sized, black letters
    6. the front side is the child’s side, on the back is your side where you should write the date you started showing the word as well as the word itself; that way you will know what the front of the card says without turning the card around
  3. Word choice
    1. words about his world starting with his body and family, then home and interests
    2. use nouns, verbs and adjectives mostly – the rest he’ll pick up in context this helps avoid boredom
    3. make at least one month’s worth of word cards before starting your program

Reading Pathway Your Child Will Follow

  1. Reading sessions
    1. Where
      1. as few distractions as possible
      2. you facing him if at all possible
      3. sitting on your lap is second best option
    2. How
      1. as quickly as possible, 1 card per second or faster
      2. as enthusiastically as possible
      3. look at your child while saying the words
      4. stop before he wants to
      5. each set can be from 1-10 words, take cues from child
      6. don’t forget a hug and kiss when you’re done
      7. do not ask child to repeat the words
      8. shuffle the cards so you’re ready for the next session
      9. wait at least 15 minutes before doing the next session
      10. First week (assuming your child continues to be interested in seeing 5 words per set)
        1. Day 1 Set 1, Show Word A 3X/day
        2. Day 2 Set 1, Show Word A+B 3X/day
        3. Day 3 Set 1, Show Word A, B, C 3X/day
        4. Day 4 Set 1, Show Word A, B, C, D 3X/day
        5. Day 5 Set 1, Show Word A, B, C, D, E 3X/day
        6. Day 6 Set 1, Retire Word A, Show Word B, C, D, E, F 3X/day
        7. Continue adding a new word and retiring an old one each day
    3. Schedule
      1. Each set 3 times per day
      2. 30 seconds or less total teaching time per set
      3. Retire words after you show them 15 times each
      4. Never show them again as single words
      5. Do up to 5 sets per day – as many as you can do consistently.
      6. After a while you will find that it takes less showings for your child to learn them. This is because his brain has grown with use.
      7. Eventually your child will only need to see a word once to learn it!
    4. Attitude – joyous!
    5. New material – don’t wait until he knows 100% of the words or he will get bored
      1. New words can be added daily and old words retired daily as above
      2. Alternatively, whole sets can be started and later retired at the same time but this method is definitely not preferred.
    6. Words to start with – see word banks
      1. Self words
      2. Family words
      3. Home environment words
      4. Objects in his world
      5. Possessions
      6. Food
      7. Animals
      8. Actions
      9. Anything that is of interest to him
  2. Show him at least 200 words before adding the next step 1st step – single words described above Continue with this step for as long as you are doing a reading program with your child.
  3. 2nd step – couplets
    1. Couplet is simply two words presented together
    2. Make couplets using words already taught
    3. Show 1-2 sets of them each day along with the sets of single words
  4. 3rd step – Phrases
    1. 3 words like “Mommy is eating.”
    2. Can be added as a set of cards or learned via game or books.
  5. 4th step – Sentences
    1. Includes noun, verb and object and usually have at least four words.
    2. Taught in the same way that phrases are taught.
  6. 5th step – Books
    1. If a child is under 3, you will probably need to make your own books by cutting up commercial books and supplying the large print.
    2. If your child is already 3yo, find books with 7/8″ type.
    3. Make books with few words per page on his interests,
    4. Words only on one layout, next page can be picture
    5. Use one book per week, read 3 times per day

Adapting the Program to Your Child

  1. If you are starting with a child who is 0-18mo : the closer your child gets to 18 mos the quicker you should present it and the briefer your sessions should be.
  2. If you child is 18mo – 30 mo: start gradually but move to phrases as soon as possible majoring on his interests.
  3. If your child is 30-48 mo: The older he is the more sophisticated the words you should teach him. You will need to be sure to use the retired words in books for review as he will need it.
  4. If you child is already 48 mo or older: Don’t lose heart. Glenn Doman: “A 4yo is a fire-eater compared to an 8yo or even a 6yo…There are thousands of superb readers who started when they were 4.” Just be sure to start with very sophisticated words about what he is interested in. Use a thesaurus extensively. And go to books as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, write the book first and then teach the words that you will need for it.

Other Points

  1. Long-term project – It takes many months to teach your baby to read.
  2. Attitude – critical to the success of your reading program
  3. Consistency – start out slow, get your program well-established before starting to add more
  4. Never, never, ever, ever test your child! Reading must always be a game where he always wins! It’s okay to show him two word cards and say, “Can you find Word A?” But if he starts to reach for Word B you must quickly say with a smile in your voice something like “Oh, you found Word B!” or “Here’s Word A!” The more you test him, the slower he will learn and the less he will want to. The less you test him, the quicker he will learn and the more he will want to learn.
  5. Time Involved – about 5 minutes per set plus material preparation
  6. Do’s and Don’ts
    1. Don’t bore your child, especially by going too slow or testing him.
    2. Don’t pressure your child.
    3. Don’t be tense.
    4. Be joyous.
    5. Be inventive.
    6. Answer all your child’s questions.
    7. Give your child worthwhile material to read.
Okay, you’ve read the summary. Now go get the book, How to Teach Your Baby to Read, by Glenn Doman. It explains things in so much more detail and gives you a good grasp on why this program works. Once you know the why’s it will help you to hang in there if things get tough. It is available on , most local libraries in the USA, and through . I do recommend getting the most recent release which is the 40th anniversary edition.