Thanks to universal pre-K programs in cities like New York and Seattle, more 3- and 4-year-olds have access to education than ever before. But one-third of American children are still underserved, and that's a huge problem, argues child-development expert Suzanne Bouffard in her new book, The Most Important Year.
Studies show that children's brains develop at a much faster rate during pre-K years, meaning better schooling then can lead to better skills later on--in reading, math, self-control and even parenting. That said, Bouffard stresses that public offerings could be even more effective if they prioritized features that help kids' cognitive development--like highly trained teachers and open interactions with peers--over tests and heavy regulation.
But in any case, she concludes, it's critical that pre-K become universally accessible because the kids "who often end up left out ... are among those who most need the benefits it can provide."