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Instead of Teaching a Baby to Read, Teach it to Smile

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What is the rush? So your child reads when he/she is developmentally ready instead of when they’re a baby? So what?

Reading is not the greatest gift you can give a young baby. Love, optimism, hope and friendship are much more important to a baby’s development that the ability to read:

John Wilkey was just four days old when his mother Dana set about teaching him how to read. The fact that newborns can’t focus on anything more than a few inches away — let alone understand words in any form — did not deter her.

Dana, 39, an events organiser who lives in Chelsea, West London, is so passionate in her view that it’s never too early to make your child brilliant, she used to run through a set of ten flashcards with her son twice a day. ‘I would show John words like “milk”, give him my breast, and then show him the baby sign language for milk,’ she says. ‘I did it morning and evening.’

Baby sign language, for those not familiar with modern  parenting, is something ‘Tiger parents’ like Dana are well versed in. It works on the theory that children want to communicate long before they develop speech and can be taught little hand signals to communicate their needs and thoughts.

When he was nine months, Dana says John — her only child — was pointing and using basic baby sign language to show he could recognise up to 20 words and phrases, including ‘I love you’, ‘nose’, ‘ear’ and ‘arms-up’.

From there, Dana says his vocabulary grew at break-neck speed. A video of John at 20 months shows him sitting in his high-chair using a chubby finger to trace underneath the words ‘eyes’, ‘clap’ and ‘book’ from left to right.

Dana, who lived in the U.S. with John’s father before they separated, now lives with her fiance, Philip, in an £3.5 million London townhouse, once owned by a well-known footballer.

She is now one of a growing number of mothers convinced that getting children reading before they are potty-trained will help them get ahead in later life.

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