Every parent hopes to give their child a leg up over their peers, but how early is too early? The increasingly competitive nature of preschools pressures parents to consider early reading programs that may not guarantee academic success.

Learning to read is not just a fundamental step in a childs development but an indispensable building block for future achievements. Your Baby Can LLC claims that its product, Your Baby Can Read, will enhance your childs learning ability, taking advantage of early brain development to maximize reading comprehension.

While this may be true, ConsumerAffairs.com readers have experienced a wide variety of results with the company and its product, leading many to question if Your Baby Can Read is right for them.

Educators are split between implementing a structured reading routine for children or taking a more relaxed and natural approach that focuses on social development. A number of child development research centers, including the Alliance for Childhood and Resources for Infant Educators, adhere to the more relaxed Waldorf philosophy, which stresses the importance of natural development.

Kathy Cook, the director of St. Aidans Preschool in Malibu, Calif., encourages parents to take the same natural approach to interacting with their children, arguing for the importance of establishing a personal connection with your child rather than relying on a pre-designed curriculum.

Cook says that in her 32 years of experience, she has noticed that children who are subject to structured learning programs tend to excel academically, but often lack the necessary social skills to effectively interact with their peers. She agrees that the Waldorf educational philosophy maximizes a childs individual abilities while at the same time allowing them to develop at an appropriate level.

But others, including Your Baby Can Read founder Dr. Robert Titzer believe that taking advantage of early brain development by teaching your child to read at a young age can ensure future academic achievement.

Good results

A number of ConsumerAffairs.com users have had success with the Your Baby Can Read program, including Kelly Stern and Cheryl Lyons-Schmidt.

The product is very effective if you put time and energy into the program and your kid, Kelly said. Her 22-month old daughter cannot only recognize many words, colors, shapes, and numbers, but enjoys the videos and songs.

Cheryl has had similar success, explaining that those who are unsuccessful likely are not following the directions For example, the instructions clearly state that your child should not watch any other TV shows. She says that by properly adhering to the program provided, your child will be able to read like her own daughter Ryleigh, seen in this YouTube video:

While Ryleighs accomplishments are certainly extraordinary, Kathy Cook maintains that children who are pushed into reading at such a young age could potentially miss out on the opportunities of socialization that are available to them.

There was a two-year-old girl whose father taught her the names of all the U.S. presidents with flashcards, Cook said, But when put with her fellow classmates, she had nothing in common with them. They had no interest in presidents, and who could blame them?

While this example may be extreme, it illustrates the greater issues surrounding early childhood development programs.

Cook warns against the use of flashcards and television: Too many people use the television as a babysitter when they should be reading to their child out of books.

She believes that, when a child asks to know what something is, then they are developmentally able to know. Furthermore, Cook insists that by asking themselves, they make the connection more concrete.

If as a parent you choose to follow the structured route, Cook advises that you dont do the program at the expense of the childs social life. She also advises parents to enroll themselves in multiple child development classes from different institutions and philosophies in order to understand the various options available to their child.

Disputed charges

Be warned however -- a number of consumers who have used Your Baby Can Read complain not of the product itself, but rather of their dealings with the company.

Andrita Andreas ordered the product but did not receive her entire order. She coomplains that she was charged a bunch of money and they never sent the products other than some cheap flimsy books.

Jose Nio said he was charged the full $260 for attempting to order the trial period. He immediately returned the product because he felt seriously treated with dishonesty.

Cesar Leyva, a member of the Your Baby Can LLC customer service team, advises customers to immediately contact customer support if they have any problems regarding the billing or shipment information of their order. Time is a factor as there is a 30-day trial period window in which you can return the product if not satisfied with the results, but after this period you are no longer eligible.

Ultimately the decision as to how to raise your child is yours alone, but be sure to do your research behind not only the methodology of a companys products, but its transaction track record as well. Generally speaking, you're more likely to find reliable, educationally sound information from sources that are not trying to sell you something.

Learn more

A few good sources of information include:

Resources for Infant Educarers, a Los Angeles-based organization founded in 1978 by the late educator and infant specialist Magda Gerber and pediatric neurologist Tom Forrest, M.D.
PBS Parents, public television's Web site offers an "early development tracker" that helps you determine what your child should accomplish each year from 1 through 8.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the milestones children should achieve each year and lists the warning signs of autism and other developmental problems that may manifest themselves early.