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The most important year in a child’s life? Research points to preschool

September 21, 2017
Rachel Nania

With hours of finger painting and story time, preschool may seem like it’s all fun and games, but researchers say it’s arguably the most critical year in a child’s life.

“It helps them get curious about how things work and how to find answers to problems so that they get excited about learning, and they learn from a very young age to be critical thinkers,” said Suzanne Bouffard, an education researcher and author of “The Most Important Year.”

“They learn about math concepts — not just the names of shapes or the names of numbers — but how you use math. … They learn how to be part of a group, how to get along with others and solve conflicts, and how to follow routines.”

Research shows that children enrolled in preschool are less likely to be held back a grade or need special education services. Beyond that, kids who attend a high-quality pre-K program are more likely to be high income earners and avoid trouble with the law.

But only about two-thirds of the nation’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K programs. Those who aren’t have a number of factors to blame.