The Sandbox Investment

The rich have always valued early education, and for the past forty years, millions of poor kids have had Head Start. Now, more and more middle class parents have realized that a good preschool is the smartest investment they can make in their children’s future in a competitive world. As The Sandbox Investment shows, their needs are key to the growing call for universal preschool.

Writing with the verve of a magazine journalist and the authority of a scholar, David L. Kirp makes the ideal guide to this quiet movement. He crouches in classrooms where committed teachers engage lively four-year-olds, and reveals the findings of an extraordinary longitudinal study that shows the life-changing impact of preschool. He talks with cutting-edge researchers from neuroscience and genetics to economics, whose findings increasingly show how powerfully early childhood shapes the arc of children’s lives.

Kids-first politics is smart economics: paying for preschool now can help save us from paying for unemployment, crime, and emergency rooms later. As Kirp reports from the inside, activists and political leaders have turned this potent idea into campaigns and policies in red and blue states alike.

The Sandbox Investment is the first full story of a campaign that asks Americans to endorse a vision of society that does well by doing good. For anyone who is interested in politics or the social uses of research–for anyone who’s interested in the children’s futures–it’s a compelling read.

Praise & Reviews

What’s the best investment we can make in the next generation? David Kirp gives us the answer in this clear and passionate book: early childhood education. The evidence is overwhelming. The need is beyond doubt. Read this and send copies to everyone you know who’s concerned about the future.
–Robert B. Reich, author of Supercapitalism

With wit and style, David Kirp offers a forceful and engaging persuasive analysis of the scientific and economic case for universal high-quality preschool.
–Diane Ravitch, author of Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms

The Sandbox Investment masterfully weaves together economic, political, social, and personal histories to reveal how the preschool movement has had such success. It’s an invaluable primer for anyone concerned about social reform.
–Deborah Stipek, Dean, School of Education, Stanford University

The Sandbox Investment takes us on a compelling grand tour of the most important frontier in public education– the first five years of life. More than that, he unveils fresh horizons for policy-making right here on our own planet, right now, from the Great Plains to Great Britain. The verdict is clear: children are born learning. We ignore this fact at great peril to our future.
–Daniel Pedersen, President, Buffett Early Childhood Fund

David Kirp gets the importance of preschool and knows how to tell the story of the smart politics of the heart. The Sandbox Investment offers us the roadmap for making America a much better place to be a child.
–James B. Hunt, Jr., former Governor of North Carolina

One of the most pressing concerns about growing income and wealth inequality is the toll it takes on the ideal of equal opportunity for children. David Kirp’s spirited book will persuade you that we may actually be able to do something about this problem.
–Robert H. Frank, author of Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class

Political discussion of preschool is often dominated by ideology. The Sandbox Investment gives us a thoughtful and exceptionally intelligent account of the psychology, economics and sociology of preschool – written in a very lively, readable and enjoyable way. It should be required reading for anyone who is interested in the welfare of young children- which should mean everyone.
–Alison Gopnik, author of The Scientist in the Crib

The first comprehensive portrait of this universal pre-kindergarten (pre-k for short) movement. For those interested in children’s and education issues, it’s a valuable primer on this significant but relatively new movement.
–Sara Mead (American Prospect 2007-07-18)

A productive read for parents, teachers and policymakers alike…[Kirp] leaves his reader with no doubt that our country would be better off if every child had the opportunity to attend a good-quality preschool and walks the reader through the benefits with concrete examples to explain what universal, quality preschool involves. He also makes a clear distinction between quality education and the education our government is currently providing.
–Amy Alamar (San Francisco Chronicle 2007-11-11)

David L. Kirp presents a cautionary tale of the results to be faced if American children are not provided meaningful, accessible and mandatory prekindergarten programs…The Sandbox Investment chronicles America’s attempts to provide meaningful pre-K education to all. It is a clarion call so that we not underestimate the ramifications of a lack of early learning and its effect upon American life in the 21st century. An excellent and necessary read for both the student of education and soon-to-be parents.
–Amy Roberson (Roanoke Times 2007-11-04)