Teach Baby to read with MonkiSee

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Full disclosure: I am NOT a fan of television. I absolutely refuse to have TV service in my house, I pretty severely limit TV/movies for the kids, and I don’t watch any of it myself unless it’s something that sounds EXTREMELY appealing to me AND I’ve been pestered enough to give in and watch it.

Out of pure necessity, and a desire to encourage self-teaching in the kids, I’ll gracefully acknowledge the occasional usefulness in homeschooling. (Though doesn’t mean I’ll ever quit calling it the “Stupid Box”.)

So. That’s where I stand on TV. Consider yourself forewarned – and if you feel kinder, gentler, or more liberal about TV, more power to you.

Which brings me to the general topic of today’s review: Babies watching TV. And not just watching – but “learning to read” – from TV.

Technically, yes, right this moment, I don’t have any infants, toddlers, or even preschoolers in my home.

And – I’ve raised four kids of my own through babyhood, toddlerville, preschooler days, and on up.

I also taught all four of them to read.

So at this point, I’ve got a pretty good idea what worked for us and what didn’t.

I’m a believer in phonics. Memorization – aka “sight words” – is for learning those words that absolutely refuse to be “sounded out”.

All words become sight words once they’re learned. That’s the primary indicator of how fluent a reader is ; how many words must they sound out or think about, rather then simply KNOW? And for the few they don’t automatically know, do they have the skills to interpret the word? A reader that has not been taught phonics has no tools to turn to.

So. That’s disclosure number two. I’m no more a fan of “learning to read via memorization” than I am of TV.

We recently received sample products from MonkiSee – a DVD called “Baby’s First Words” and a book, “Know Your Monkey”. The DVD is the first volume from MonkiSee’s baby reading kit, while the book is intended to be used to reinforce the words learned in the video.

MonkiSee‘s products are created for ages 3 months to 2 years. MonkiSee recommends that the half-hour long video be viewed once a day, five days per week, for approximately a month. The video has three parts. One section is a parents guide, with recommendations for use. The second is the actual video, while the third is a shorter, quicker, slideshow video, to use to review the words an additional time.

The video itself was quite cute, though not what I expected. From the cover and website graphics, I thought it would consist primarily of animations of the monkeys, when in reality, the monkeys were only present a few times, during short song inserts. The rest of the video contained seemingly random videos that related to the word being “taught” in that portion of the video. Clips included infants and children, real animals, puppets, and occasionally, wind-up toys. Various nursery rhymes and songs, plus a few fingerplay games, like pat-a-cake, were interspersed throughout the video. The theme song itself is quite catchy, too.

Many of the clips are quite funny. I made all four of mine (ages 8, 11, 13, and 15) watch it at least once with me, just to get their input, and was surprised at how often they laughed. (And I’d really like to know where they found wind-up, walking ears and noses.) I could easily see a preschooler giggling their way through this show.

I have some pretty mixed feelings about the video. I wouldn’t recommend it for  an under-two-year-old… but then, i wouldn’t recommend any TV for an under-two. A toddler or preschooler? They would probably enjoy watching it, and might memorize the words from it… but it’s not going to “teach them to read”. At best, they would recognize those specific words when seen later.

You’re not going to want to use this to replace daily reading with your preschooler, or a hearty session of this-little-piggy and naming all the body parts with your toddler. But it would be one more video to put in the rotation when you need a temporary media babysitter to get a few tasks done.

Then again, there IS another group that might find these videos useful. When my oldest was born, I’d held a grand total of two other babies in my life. One, once, about 9 months prior… the other fifteen years before. I had NO clue what I was doing. (My mother watched us try to diaper and dress that wriggly, squirmy little guy… and oh, did she laugh and take pictures.) If you’re in that boat – and so you don’t know all the baby games and finger play – this video is absolutely perfect for you. Watch it with your baby – and sing the songs, and play the games, and interact. Gather up all those tools, so nicely packaged in these videos… and play and sing and learn and teach your baby, no matter where you are.

MonkiSee DVDs are regularly priced at $24.95, but they’re currently on sale for $19.95. Accompanying books are sale-priced at $9.95. Flash cards are also available, or get a complete MonkiSee “Baby Reading Kit” for $139.95.

To see what other crew members had to say about this product, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, MonkiSee.

**I received this product for free as a member of the 2010-11 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**