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Reading programme ads deceptive

Ads for a programme that claimed to teach babies to read were deceptive, the US Federal Trade Commission says.

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The programme, called Your Baby Can Read!, was promoted here at parent shows, in TV advertorials and on websites. Online comments from apparently happy purchasers gushed about the product. But child-development experts were less flattering, pointing out that babies aren't at a stage of development where they can learn to read.

In August, the FTC filed false-advertising charges against the company responsible for the programme, its former chief executive, and also against the product's creator, Robert Titzer. It alleged they had falsely claimed the programme could teach infants and toddlers to read using videos, flash cards and pop-up books.

The company and the former chief executive agreed to settle. The settlement prevents them from using the term "Your baby can read" and imposes a $185 million penalty (although most of this penalty has been suspended because of the company's failing financial condition).

Marketing of so-called educational DVDs for young children has grown rapidly in recent years. Despite the advertising hype, research has failed to find any convincing evidence that babies and infants notch up any extra IQ points from watching these programmes.