Wise Words



The Most Important Year

September 20, 2017

Thank you, NCRC parents, for keeping me honest and well-read. I love that you have expanded my circle of scholars interested in early childhood development by joining its ranks. Along with my stack of research articles beside my bed is an equally high stack of books that many of you have suggested I read. Just the other day, in fact, one of our fathers said to me, “Val, I know you’ve probably heard this from many parents already, but if you haven’t heard it I want to tell you about this great book I just read.” And, so, another great conversation started.


I of course got the book and read it this past weekend. It was, as I was told, excellent and another one of those books I wish I’d written. The book, “The Most Important Year: Pre-kindergarten and the Future of Our Children,” by Dr. Suzanne Bouffard has become my new favorite read. Dr. Bouffard does a beautiful job explaining what high quality early childhood education looks and feels like. We know from extensive research and countless resources (and you’ve heard me say it time and again) that early childhood is a critically important stage of development. And we need to get it right and we need to do it on a deadline. The challenge, however, is in how we interpret what it means to “get it right.” For some, the fact that the brain is highly absorbent means that we need to build into it all of the facts and figures that we can. But the fact is (and Bouffard’s book highlights this) the most important work is in helping children develop self-regulation, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Her thought is that the best way to build these skills is - you guessed it- through play. But not just any kind of play -- play that is intentional.


There is certainly a place for learning facts and figures but unless a child can discern how they relate to one another, how they could be put to service to solve a problem, what do they mean in a bigger picture and compared to similar though often contrary facts and figures, then? For this, we need to teach children to think critically, to explore beyond the fact. To explore the “why’s” and “what ifs,” to guide the child to reach beyond the obvious.


I have to be honest, for me there is no doubt. We will get it right. Even if we stumble a bit and disagree about the method, we’re committed to understanding this vibrant time in a child’s development. Just look by my bedside table for proof.


Dr. Valaida Wise

Head of School

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Val Recommends



Books and articles and podcasts, oh my! According to Dr. Val Wise, these recommendations are worth a read (or listen, or watch).



“The Most Important Year: Pre-Kindergarten and the Future of Our Children,” by Dr. Suzanne Bouffard

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Episode #5 from The Early Childhood Research Podcast, "Emergent Writing: Why Children's Play Choices Affect Learning"


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