Elizabeth Barrett is 17 months old. She looks and acts like most babies her age, but her mom Katy says, "She can read sentences. She can read more words than we can count."
So we watched as Elizabeth pulled out her favorite book, climbed in her favorite reading chair, and looked at pictures.
Katy, a speech pathologist who is married to Michael, another speech pathologist, said that most people don't believe their infant is a reader.
"The joke is that since we see kids with language problems, we think anybody with normal language skills is a genius. But as time goes on, it's harder to deny that she's exceptional," said Katy.
Aside from reading books every day, play-time means mom writes down a word on paper and Elizabeth figures it out.
When asked to see what Elizabeth could do, Katy wrote excited on a piece of paper and said, "Elizabeth, what does this say?" Elizabeth said "excited" and waved her hand over her chest. Katy explained that Elizabeth not only read the word, but signed it as well.
Katy is convinced that sign language helped launch her daughter's reading skills, partly by watching shows like "Signing Times" on public television.
"What's this word?' she asked. "Bear", answered Elizabeth." Yes, it said bear.
It was obvious, Elizabeth talks like she's 1, but she reads like she's 7. So what does her doctor think? Dr. Steve Stripling, Elizabeth's pediatrician, says at 14 months he saw her sight read the word avocado.
"I was floored," he said.
The Barretts say they weren't trying to impress the doctor when they showed him what Elizabeth could do. It was more important for them to know that she didn't have some condition, like autism.
Dr. Stripling told me, "Elizabeth does not appear to be autistic at all. It looks like this child is going to be completely normal and, likely, will be a great resource for humanity, being as smart as she is."
What a relief to the Barretts that they can quiz Elizabeth on dozens of words but still enjoy playing, laughing, watching TV, and many other activities. Elizabeth reads words like happy, puppy, penguin, vegetable, and kangaroo. That was impressive enough, but apparently, she's inherited her parent's love of music as well. When her mom wrote down Led Zeppelin, Buddy Holly, and the Beatles, she said those words too.
Katy said, "We just want to know what to do with her next. We want her to be challenged. We don't want to hold her back," Katy said.