Book Review:

Einstein Never Used Flashcards, by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Diane Eyer

Every once in awhile, you just get a gut feeling that something is a bad idea…like feathered bangs or track suits with suggestive adjectives printed across the seat. For me, buying my baby and toddler toys that promised to teach them “school readiness skills” fell under this category as well. As a teacher, grad student and mother, something just didn’t sit right when I watched commercials for the “Your Baby Can Read” program or looked at flash cards to teach your baby common words in three languages from the  comfort of his or her stroller. Why? Why does my baby need to read words before he can speak? Will I be putting my boys at a disadvantage if they aren’t “reading” (and I use this term loosely, as I’d argue Your Baby Can Read teaches memorization, not true, phonetical reading) by or before preschool?

The short answer, which is so wonderfully researched and explained by Dr. Hirsh-Pasek, Dr. Michnick Golinkoff, and Dr. Eyer is NO. As I’d suspected from my own research about how children grow, develop, and learn, PLAY is what’s important for true learning. That is, high quality, child-centered play, not the kind of “play” that happens when children are parked in front of electronic toys designed to teach them academic skills out of context and before they’re developmentally ready to learn them.

For any parents concerned that they’re not doing enough for their child by opting to let them play in their backyard while the other kids in the neighborhood attend enrichment classes and complete skill builder workbooks, I implore you to read this book. It’s reassuring and wonderful to see the research proving that by encouraging creative play and providing your kids with an environment conducive to discovery, you are doing what is in their best interest. It’s permission to say “no thanks” to 3 year old soccer programs, walk by the baby DVDs, and pass up that “Smart Cycle” video game and replace it with…a bike. Check it out!

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