Universal preschool has been a topic of some debate in recent years. Some lawmakers and politicians running for office have called for preschool to be more available and affordable, while others oppose the idea of universal preschool. But what parents really need to know is whether or not their child really needs to go to preschool. Opinions vary, but there are a few reasons why preschool really could make a difference for your child. Take a look at a few reasons why preschool matters.

Kindergarten Has Gotten Harder

If it's been awhile since you were in a kindergarten class, prepare to be surprised when your child hits that milestone. In 1995, only about half of kindergarten programs were full-day programs. Now, 72% of them are full-day programs, and your child will be expected to learn a lot more. Before your kindergartner moves on to first grade, they'll be expected to read, write, and do simple math. Your kindergartner will likely even have homework a few times a week.

Kindergarten is no longer the introduction to the classroom experience that it once was – your child will need to be able to keep up with a structured routine right from the beginning. Some schools have even done away with naptime for kindergartners. Since today's kindergarten students will be expected to jump right into academics, preschool can serve the purpose that kindergarten once served – it can allow students to dip their toes into the classroom setting without a lot of academic expectations attached. Your preschooler will learn the basics of classroom behavior, like standing in line, working with a group of other students, or sitting quietly for story time, before they begin getting graded.

Preschool Has Long-Term Benefits

Experts say that preschool starts boosting literacy early, an effect that has lasting repercussions. Children who attend preschool are less likely to need special education, more likely to graduate high school, and more likely to go on to college. Reading skills are central to all of that. Kids who are strong readers by the third grade graduate high school 77% of the time.

What does preschool have to do with third grade reading skills? Quite a bit. Preschool literacy activities can include listening to stories, reciting letters and numbers, and playing games that strengthen their pre-reading skills. The result is that when those preschoolers get to kindergarten, they already have a foundation for the reading skills they'll be learning there, and they'll pick up the concepts much more quickly. By the time they reach the third grade, they're much more likely to be strong readers.

Preschool Enables Early Intervention

Parents know their child best, but parents aren't usually trained to spot the often subtle signs of a learning disability. Preschool teachers trained in early childhood education are trained to spot the signs of learning disabilities, as well as vision and hearing problems

Often, these problems don't look the way parents might expect, so it's easy for parents to miss them at home or even for pediatricians to miss them during an annual well-child exam. Many times, kids who have a learning disability aren't identified until some time during their school career. The earlier these children are identified, the sooner they can begin receiving services and the more likely they are to succeed. Preschool teachers may be able to recognize the signs of these problems and refer parents for testing before the child begins kindergarten.

Early intervention also helps children avoid the frustration of struggling with schoolwork. If your child has a learning disability, or a hearing or vision problem, identifying the problem in preschool will allow you to go into kindergarten with a plan to manage the problem and tailor your child's school experience to their needs. They won't have to experience the feeling of being unable to keep up with the other students in their class or complete the work that the teacher assigns. This can help them retain confidence in their abilities.

Ultimately, the decision to put your child in preschool is up to you. But don't count it out without taking a serious look at the potential benefits to your child. Click this link for more information.