‘Your Baby Can Read!’ Ads|Are Fiction, FTC Says

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – Ads touting the “Your Baby Can Read!” program’s ability to teach infants as young as 9 months old to read are not backed by reliable scientific evidence, the Federal Trade Commission claims in court.
     The agency sued Your Baby Can LLC, company founder Hugh Penton Jr., and program creator Robert Titzer, Ph.D, in Federal Court on Monday, claiming their advertisements for “Your Baby Can Read!” contain false and unsubstantiated claims.
     “Your Baby Can Read!” is a $200 set of DVDs, pop-up books and flash cards meant to teach infants to read. The program’s makers have made more than $185 million since the product went on the market in 2008, the FTC says.
     Ads for the product show babies and toddlers reading word cards and books, and include unsubstantiated claims aimed at getting parents to part with their cash, the agency says.
     The FTC claims a 30-minute TV infomercial suggests that “Your Baby Can Read!” is scientifically proven to teach infants as young as 9 months old to read, and that kids will be able to read popular books like “Charlotte’s Web” and “Harry Potter” by age 4.
     Kids who use the program are also represented as having an advantage over children who do not, the FTC says.
     In the ads, Titzer, touted as “a recognized expert in infant research,” endorses the program based on two studies which he said demonstrated that the product improves cognitive functioning in children, the FTC states. Those studies were allegedly sponsored by “Your Baby Can Read!”
     “Defendant Titzer did not exercise his purported expertise in infant research in the form of an examination or testing of Your Baby Can Read!® program at least as extensive as an expert in infant research would normally conduct, in order to support the conclusions presented in his endorsement,” the lawsuit states.
     On Tuesday, the FTC announced that it had reached a settlement with Penton and Your Baby Can LLC. The agreement bars them from using the phrase “Your Baby Can Read!” and imposes a $185 million judgment, all but $500,000 of which will be suspended due to the company’s inability to pay, the FTC said.
     “If it is later determined that the financial information the company gave the FTC was false, the full amount of the judgment will become due,” the FTC stated in a press release. It claims it’s “initiating litigation against Titzer.”
     The “Your Baby Can Read!” website states that the company has closed shop and that Titzer has decided to maintain the program’s website and Facebook page.
     “Your Baby Can, LLC, is no longer connected or affiliated with Robert Titzer, Ph.D. or his company the Infant Learning Company,” according to the website.
     Neither Titzer nor the Infant Learning Co. could be reached for an interview.
     The complaint alleges violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act, including unlawful claims and unlawful expert endorsement. The agency’s attorneys are Willard Tom, Robin Rosen Spector and Rosemary Rosso.

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