Last week, the NY Times published an article on the decline of picture books, claiming that parents are pushing chapter books on younger children because they want to advance their child’s learning. (Although a parent’s quote was taken out of context.)

Is this truly a trend? Are parents feeling pressure to keep up with the Joneses, literally?

I hate to say it, but the answer is yes. (But stay tuned, we’ll circle back to picture books.)

The pressure to raise intellectually superior kids starts even before a child is born. The Mozart Effect suggested that playing classical music for your fetus boosted intelligence. Pregnancy Today says exposure to music in utero may instill your child with a sense of confidence after they’re born.

Remember Baby Einstein?  The name alone gets parents thinking about academic achievement in the early years.

You’ve probably heard of Your Baby Can Read. They boast that “a baby’s brain develops at a phenomenal pace…nearly 90% during the first five years of life!” They urge parents to “seize this small window of opportunity,” as if your child will never have the capacity to learn again.

A local preschool is cleverly named “Ivy Leaf.” Are they suggesting enrollment will guarantee your child admission to Yale or Harvard? Hmm…

Kindergarten used to be a half-day of painting, building with blocks and playing music. But now children are given summer tutoring in math and reading to prep for Kindergarten.

Look at the rise of tutoring companies like Kumon and Sylvan.

Rigorous school standards push parents to raise children who are smarter, faster. No one wants their child to be left behind.

But should we give chapter books to young children? If they want to read them, sure! says “choice is vital to reading engagement. As children learn to self-select their reading materials, they become discriminating and independent readers.” That’s a fancy way of saying children who select their own books are more likely to become life-long readers—and learners.

That brings us back to picture books. They are intellectually stimulating:

  • Reading with your child early and often helps develop the parent-child bond. (It’s a nice tradition, folks.)
  • Illustrations help children comprehend the story when they don’t understand the language. They learn context.
  • Picture books expose children to art. Some of the finest illustrative work in the world can be found in picture books.
  • The repetitive phrasing common to picture books helps children recognize words.
  • Rhyming picture books help children recognize word patterns.
  • Children learn story and narrative structure in a concise format. They get a beginning, middle and end in less than 1000 words.


I bet the Joneses read them, too.