"Compounding the problem is a phenomenon also seen in earlier grades: the 'push down' of curriculum, in which students are required to learn material once the province of higher grades. Kindergartners, who used to spent their days playing, are learning how to read, and first-graders are expected to know how."
The Post has an interesting series featuring articles highlighting primary school grades, one at a time. This: one is on the fourth grade. I'm all for challenging students, but battling "push down" takes up an enormous amount of parent-relations time and energy. Truth is, my fourth grade class is capable of reading chapter books and understanding the plot in a general way, but I much prefer using picture books with them. I can easily get a fifteen or twenty word vocabulary list from a book like Leaf Men or Hey, Al!. Moreover, because the kids quickly understand the plot, we can get right into the nuts and bolts of the language and nuances of the stories. But try telling that to parents from a social group where their peers are showing off the chapter books their kids are reading.
Besides, I like the pictures.