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“Giftedness starts in the cradle.”


A few years ago everybody would have laughed at you if you had told them you were teaching your 3-month old baby to read, to do maths and to master endless encyclopaedic facts.

Happily, all over South Africa and even the world, there has recently been a great awakening amongst intellectual parents who refuse to follow the old tradition that children between 3 months and four years are too young to learn facts and must during this period only learn through play.

“Most children love to have stories read to them,
and even though these books are not often part of formal reading instruction,
the listening experience leaves children eager to learn to read.”

~ Dr. Marion Blank, ~
from her book, The Reading Remedy

Can and should babies be taught to read and do maths?

There is a myth that is spread by some teachers. The myth is that it is harmful for parents to teach their children to read. Many teachers seem to have been trained to discourage parents even from letting the eager, curious child teach itself. “That is our job”, they say, insisting that anything the parents do to open the world of knowledge to a child will not be taught “the proper way,” usually meaning whatever way is the latest passing fad or fashion at a particular school.

Many children learn to read quite well long before they get to school. Many children become curious and teach themselves, others need very little encouragement. Quite often by the time they are five, even four, they can already read very well.

“The more you READ,
the more THINGS you know.
The more that you LEARN,
the more PLACES you’ll go”

~ Dr. Seuss ~

When is the best time to start?

The best time to start developing your child’s mental capacity is around the age of 3 months, long before he/she can even walk!

A baby of this age can recognize and name very complex and highly variable forms, such as a chair, a table or a human face and there is no reason why he/she cannot learn to recognize the form of a word which is much less complicated and less variable.

Glenn Doman, the author of Teach Your Baby To Read, says that a baby learns first to recognize large objects and only gradually becomes good at classifying small ones. The baby, he found, can soon learn to recognize the word “mommy” and “daddy” and many others if they are written large enough. When we start with big enough letters we find that two-year-olds could learn to recognize and name anything when the name and the word was presented together sufficiently frequently.

Doman urges parents not to waste the few early, fast learning, years, when the child’s ability to acquire knowledge is maximal. He reminds us that in the three years between two and five a child can learn an entire language and, if exposed to them, several languages, as many as four or five.

Did you know that most geniuses and gifted people could read or do maths before they had started school? SmartBrain provides an Early Learning

 Programme as well as parental training to give parents the opportunity to develop their children in the privacy and intimacy of their own homes.

“Reading is to the mind,

what exercise is to the body.”

No fear of overstimulation

Dr Neil Harvey is the author of Kids Who Start Ahead, Stay Ahead (Penguin-Putnam, 1999). His book reports what happened intellectually, physically and socially to 314 early learners after they have entered school. During pre-school years (0-4) these children, coming from every walk of life, had been introduced to reading, math, physical activities and social graces. Once in school, nearly 35% of them were classified as “gifted”. They and the other early learners in Harvey’s study excelled convincingly in all areas.

Glenn Doman is adamant that when you teach a child joyously, you can never lose, but will add to our love and respect for each other. By teaching them joyously you, as parent, will raise the ability of your child intellectually, physically and socially.

“Function determines structure,” he said. “The brain grows by use.” SmartBrain has witnessed the fact that early stimulation promotes incredible neurological development, time and time again.

Doman also asserts that: “The critical factor here is age – the first three or four years of life is the time of maximum neurological development. Kids learn more, fact by fact, prior to six years of age, than they learn the rest of their lives.” According to him, the ability to take in raw facts is an inverse function of age. If parents understand the development that is, or should be, taking place in these first few years, they can greatly enhance and increase the chances for the child to fulfil his desire to learn. Early reading is one of the best ways to capitalize on this stage and significantly increase intelligence.

“The human brain grows most rapidly from conception to three years after birth, and then growth slows down until by age 6 it has tapered off and it becomes difficult to affect its final level of development. It is during that growth spurt between 18 months and three years that the two functions of language acquisition (speech) and pattern perception (reading) are best developed and enhanced. After age three it becomes progressively more difficult to learn a second or third language or learn to read with ease and fluency.”

According to leading researchers, such as Bruner, Kagan and Burton White, if by age three the child has not had the opportunity to develop fully his neurological functions, he has missed the boat. From then on it requires much more radical intervention to improve the child’s mental functioning.

Parents must know that brain growth and development is a dynamic and ever-changing process. It may be stopped, slowed or most significantly, speeded up!

SmartBrain’s Early Learning Programme is designed to speed up the process by giving children visual, auditory and tactile information with increased frequency, intensity and duration in recognition of the orderly way in which the human brain grows.

According to Glen Doman, there are 5 requirements for intelligence:

Obviously then, facts are the basis on which intelligence is built. Armed with that knowledge, the parents’ job then is to satisfy their baby’s insatiable desire to learn, by:

“Education is not the learning of facts,
but the training of the mind to think.”

~ Albert Einstein ~

What limits mental activity?

Children learn to be unintelligent!

They learn a caution that inhibits their creativity. They learn to become socially ineffective. It is adult intervention or the lack of intervention, which effectively diminishes and so often destroys early promise. It is adult intervention or the lack of intervention that teaches them to undervalue their brains and underestimate their abilities.

It takes years to become a good computer programmer. Computers are patterned on the processes that take place daily in the human brain. The brain is far more complicated and has far more neural-highway  potential than a computer has, yet parents think that multiple languages, mathematical abilities, a creative mind, musical abilities, etc will just arrive in the brain without correct, strategically well-planned programmes and human effort.

Parents should be trained in the unlimited potential of the brain, how the brain needs to be programmed for giftedness, at what gradient and pace programming should take place, and so on. But where can parents today go to to obtain this kind of information and training?

Useless programming is as dangerous as no programming. Virus downloads take place daily (just as they do on computers) and once wrong habits and information have formed highways in the brain, the child cannot change, but will instead slavingly follow the imprints of his programmed mind. To destroy the downloads take a lot of time and patience.

Many parents do not want their children to be overly clever. They want them to be “cute”, because a “cute” child meets the adult’s dependency needs. Being cute involves doing amusing, childish things that can be commented on amidst general, adult laughter.

Children who strive to be independent, to think and act for themselves as competently and intelligently as they know how, are not being cute. They are not playing the kind of role that adults normally demand of them. They are “unnatural”… “growing up too quickly.”

Numerous studies have shown that children with fully developed mental abilities are not less stable than others, but probably more emotionally balanced. They tend to be happier, more sociable, more restrained in their conduct and more aware in their judgements.

“Learning how to learn is one of the most important skills in life.”

~ Norma F Fauziyah ~

Whole words vs phonics

Teaching whole words (3 months to 5 years)

SmartBrain’s Early Learning Programme is in essence based on the “look and say” method by which the whole word rather than the various sounds are taught.

If a baby has built up a vocabulary of the most common words by the age of three or four it can be introduced to the phonetic method at four or five. It will have the great advantage of knowing many words and thus can build on contextual clues for further reading.

In learning, children have to progress from the known to the unknown, and from the concrete to the abstract. So words associated with concrete things are easy to learn. But letters are much more abstract concepts. A three- or four-year-old child with a database of recognized words can more easily puzzle out new words phonetically as its reasoning power develops.

The exposure to these flash cards and telling the child what they say is a gradual method, and designed to avoid the main enemy, boredom. Babies soon get tired of the familiar and have an enormous curious appetite for novelty. They have to be like that in order to learn much in a very short time as they grow.

Gradually, books with decreasing letter size and increasing vocabulary are introduced. The parent does not have to explain or define at the early stages, but will rely on familiarity and repetition for the learning process.

Taught in this way, children build up a vocabulary of sight words. As learners’ sight-word vocabulary grows, they may begin to understand the underlying rules of phonics.

Tackle the sounds and the alphabet at a later stage in the process when the child’s ability to grasp abstract reasoning is more developed.

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

~ Margaret Fuller ~

Why computers aren’t part of our system

To introduce new skills, computers are not as effective as one-on-one facilitation. A routine complaint about computers in schools is that learners are not really learning useful skills while spending time in front of a screen and using a mouse to click on words and images.

For a learner who finds reading difficult, the temptation to play on the computer rather than to practise reading skills may be particularly strong. Computers can supplement reading remediation classes or tutoring, but they are no substitute for help from teachers and parents.

The eye movements of a learner correspond to the reading method he has been taught. Remedial reading nowadays relies largely on retraining the eyes. The work done by the eyes is poor – the theory goes – so let’s teach the eyes to do a better job, hence all the mechanical gadgets, the films, the tachistoscopes, the reading accellerators, and so forth.

Actually, the relationship of eye movements to reading is very simple. The eyes wander along a line across the page, stopping from time to time to pick up a word or two or three, then moving on to the next stop, and the next, and the next. Sometimes the eyes jump back, to correct a mistake in reading. So, technically speaking, there are only three important mechanical elements in the reading process: the average duration of fixation pauses, the width of the average fixation span, and the average number of regression movements. It is  therefore clear that any improvement in reading will and must reduce the number of regression movements. The better you read, the less often you will have to go back to correct an error.

The basic problem of remedial reading therefore boils down to this: The eyes of the slow reader stop for too long and take in too little. To improve his reading, he must either shorten his fixation pauses or widen his fixation span.

Every single one of the current reading-improvement gadgets and techniques are designed to widen the learner’s fixation span.

If you improve your reading by learning phonics, your fixation span will probably stay the same, but your fixation pauses will get shorter. You’ll gradually learn to see the letters on the page more quickly (from “The study of eye movements in reading” by Prof. M A Tinker, Psychologist Bulletin, March 1946).

This means that the majority of remedial reading courses concentrate on exactly the opposite of what they should. They strengthen the bad habit of word guessing instead of trying to cure it. Even the currently fashionable speed-reading courses and programmes won’t help you much.

“I believe that investing in our children’s development from the earliest age is the single most important contribution we can make…”

~ Jay Weatherill ~

What does it cost?

Contact us to order your Early Learning Programme today (also available in Afrikaans).

Professor Kobus Maree, well-known lecturer at the University of Pretoria wrote in his book, Make your child brighter, that central to everything a child does, is the ability to read. He says that “endless arguments are conducted on where and when a child should begin reading for the first time. It would be meaningful, however, for every parent to help his or her child to read even before they go to school.”

He further advises parents by saying, “Forget about your pre-conceived notions as well as the objections of primary school teachers. By teaching your child to read, you are providing him or her with a key to unlock many doors at an early age.” It will help your child to become cleverer.

Any respected researcher will tell you that reading is the basis for intelligence and that giftedness and a high IQ can be attributed to the level of a child’s motor skills as well as his or her language skills which were instilled already in their early years, prior to school attendance. Reading and mathematics is a natural ability which can easily be acquired between the ages of one and five.

Research has already proven irrefutably that pre-school brain stimulation is imperative if we are to give our learners the maximum enjoyment of their unlimited brain potential.

Intelligence is every learner’s birth right and for that reason it is our duty as parents and facilitators to pass on information to our new generation in an organised and interesting manner.

SmartBrain is a cognitive stimulation-programme whereby neurons (brain cells) are exposed to basic facts over a longer period and through increased repetition.

If you have never encountered any babies reading before, you would have some questions and doubts about whether this is the kind of stimulation you would like to give your child. We hope to answer most of those questions here…

Others (the Education Department’s statistics estimate 70%), spend 12 years at school and remain functionally illiterate. SmartBrain’s committed parents and trained facilitators have taught hundreds of babies and pre-school children to read, well before they were sent to school. There exists no evidence of any harm that has resulted from such early reading, nor have we met any parent that has regretted it, nor has any child become bored because of this early developed skill.

Dr Margaret Pollak, a pediatrician at Kings College Hospital, describes the view that only professional teachers can teach reading as absolute nonsense. She advises parents, just as SmartBrain does, to familiarise babies with letters and numbers. There is absolutely no danger, nothing to be lost by

constantly exposing an interested child to the experience of written forms and pictures and letting the child learn at its own pace. As long as the child enjoys the game you can continue without any qualms.

To help and guide parents and pre-schools in their efforts, SmartBrain offers a day-to-day programme to teach babies and toddlers to read!

Teddy Pack
(complete ELP Module 1)

Froggy Pack
(ELP Module 1 Beginner’s Pack 1)

Elephant Pack
(ELP Module 2 Beginner’s Pack 2)

Cow Pack
(ELP Module 2)

Puppy Pack
(ELP Module 3)

Bunny Pack
(ELP Module 4)

For more information or to place an order, please contact us.