AP ran a story about kids losing out on play due to ever-more-rigorous academic standards at ever-younger ages, and the move to bring it back. As a literacy-lovin' person you'd think I'd be all for early learning, and I am.
But imaginative play is vital to grow a reader.
Narrative skills--one of the six pre-literacy skills--refer to how a child puts together a story. Beginning, middle, and end (although often there's no end, just an evolution to the next chapter of the Perils of Pauline). What happens next? And after that? And after that?
But they don't do it on paper. They do it with a foil crown, with a cardboard box, with a stick from the backyard (Mom: "Put that down, you'll poke someone's eye out!") They tell each other the story of how they're blasting off to explore Venus with their pet dinosaur.
The child who has already explored Venus in their own mind instinctively seeks out other adventures. The child who is given play time, fantasy time, imagination time, becomes our reader, because they already know the world is bigger than what they see with their own two eyes, and they want to discover it.