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The Daily Tar Heel

3-year-old illiteracy not a problem

Did you know that children who begin reading earlier perform better in school as students, are more successful as young adults, have higher self-esteem and have been shown to be 56 percent better than children who are simply average readers?

And for the price of $14.95, your three-year-old can learn to read at a first-grade level.
I made the last stat up, but the first three were pulled word for word from the “Your Baby Can Read” website. This product strikes me on two levels. First, I have serious doubts that you can teach a three-year-old to read at a first-grade level. But even if this is true, the parents who buy “Your Baby Can Read” are just the latest example of the extreme lengths many are willing to take to give their children an edge over the Jones’.

This hyper-competitive culture that those parents create for their children extends beyond just academics. Control-freak stage moms and Amateur Athletic Union teams that require teams of 10-year-olds to practice daily and travel cross-country are becoming more common. These well-intentioned but horribly misguided parents are always thinking about preparing for the next step. “If Johnny learns to read earlier, he’ll have a better chance of getting into so-and-so prestigious private school. At this private school, he’ll be groomed as a student and be well on his way to Harvard. If we don’t act now, we will have missed our chance and Johnny will never amount to anything!”

What these parents don’t understand are the effects of placing such high and demanding expectations on their kids from such an early age. For every Lebron James, who responds to the pressure of high expectations from a young age (and even that may be debatable now), there are many more that suffer from the stress and burden of reaching unreasonable goals.
I’m not advocating that parents coddle their children at the expense of challenging them to reach their academic, athletic or acting potential.

But the fact that pre-schoolers are being prepped for admissions interviews for Manhattan private schools tells me that as a society, we’ve crossed the line between being proactive and compulsive.

One of the best bits of advice I got as an incoming freshman was, “The school you go to isn’t nearly as important as what you do once you’re there.” The same message applies to these crazy parents. Ultimately, throwing money at a student’s academic progress for scams like “Your Baby Can Read,” or even more legitimate programs like Princeton Review SAT courses, is worthless if a student lacks the self-motivation and determination to achieve academic success.

Fear of not living up to parents’ lofty standards can only carry you so far.

The truly gifted and talented people will distinguish themselves regardless of what kind of background they emerge from. Lebron James is still going to be a star in the NBA if he goes the typical route and plays college ball.

Sure, the extremes some parents go to in order to make their children better-prepared may pay off every once in a while, but in the greater context, it’s only stressing kids out.
David Bierer is a columnist for the Daily Tar Heel. He is a senior business major from Charlotte, NC. E-mail David at bierer@email.unc.edu_

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