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[whitespace] Code in the Crib

Willow Glen--Having found a niche in the office and the classroom, the computer will soon be moving into the nursery, if a Willow Glen couple's new invention takes off. The software program "babyWow!," created by Tony and Kathy Fernandes, is designed to teach the pre-verbal set 2,000 words in eight languages; Tony Fernandes calls it: "the mother of all speak-and-say toys."

Released in July, babyWow! is interactive software with more than 300 photographs of everyday objects, each named in Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

Tony Fernandes, CEO of BowWow House, says he believed it was important that the software include different languages to reflect the multicultural reality in the United States. "The sounds a child learns in the first two years of life are the ones they know for the rest of their lives," Fernandes said.

He says that two years ago, he noticed that his son Sean, who was 6 months old at the time, had a fascination with the keyboard. "He liked the way it felt in pressing the buttons and stuff," Fernandes says. After talking to other parents, he learned that their children had also discovered keyboards at a young age. "So I started thinking about ways that a computer could be beneficial for children."

He says he happened across a huge body of research on infant and toddler stimulation and how it correlates to the child's IQ later on in life.

"It was amazing to me how much of the research had been really ignored by the software industry, and I wanted to create a product that really addresses all of these findings and attempted to be truly beneficial to the child--rather than mind candy," he says. "I didn't want them to stare at it and go into a catatonic state like they do when they watch TV."

Since its release in July, the Fernandeses say, babyWow! has exceeded their expectations. "We thought we'd get one or two sales a week," Kathy says. "Right now, we have over 200 orders--several from outside the country. We're getting ready to press our second edition."
Michelle Ku

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