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What Effect Does Preschool Have on a Child?

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Preschool can be an ideal setting for 3- and 4-year-olds to learn to share, take turns, abide by rules and improve cognitive skills. Young children who attend preschool tend to be at an advantage when it comes time to start kindergarten, according to the Kids Health website published by the Nemours Foundation. The many benefits of getting a head start in school may explain why 75 percent of American 4-year-olds and 50 percent of 3-year-olds are enrolled in preschool programs, according to a report published by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

IQ and School Success

Numerous studies over 25 years have determined that kids who attended preschool score seven to eight points higher on IQ tests, according to a September 2008 policy brief by W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Children who go to preschool are also less likely to repeat a grade and more apt to graduate from high school than students who didn't attend preschool.

Long-Term Effects

University of Minnesota professor Arthur J. Reynolds and colleagues conducted a 25-year study of more than 1,000 children in inner-city Chicago. The findings, published in 2011 in the journal "Science," showed that children who attended preschool were more likely to go to college. By age 28, study participants who'd gone to preschool had more prestigious careers, higher wages and socioeconomic status. Males and children of parents who didn't complete high school reaped the greatest benefit from attending preschool programs, the researchers noted.

Disadvantaged Children

Growing evidence verifies the influential effects that preschool programs can have on a child's life course and subsequent well-being. Disadvantaged children who attend Head Start -- a federal program promoting school readiness for children up to age 5 from low income families -- and other preschool programs are better prepared to make a smooth and academically sound transition into elementary school. Further research is needed to learn how to best organize programs for disadvantaged children to ensure they are easily accessible.

Considerations

The predictable routines most preschool programs provide help a young child adjust to a structured setting that will be the norm during the school years that lie ahead. Preschoolers generally thrive on schedules and respond positively to the daily rituals of preschool. For example, some preschools start the day by sitting in a circle with the teacher, spending a few minutes to talk about how they spent their time the day before and share plans for the day ahead.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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