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Why is it hard to find a good preschool? Play this game

When 2.7 million 4-year-olds start preschool in the U.S. next fall, many will end up in places that have subpar and even dangerous conditions, without the support they need to get ready to succeed in school.

Lack of access and availability for both low-income and middle class families means that many parents never enroll their children in preschool at all, despite knowing about the academic and social benefits.

Just 43 percent of 4-year-olds go to public preschools in the U.S., and only six states have public programs that meet basic quality standards, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. Private preschools, which are expensive, poorly regulated and hard to find, enroll the rest.

To help you better understand the challenge parents face in finding a safe, stimulating place for their children, The Hechinger Report created “Preschool Challenge,” an illustrated, interactive story.

Stepping into the shoes of a parent, you will try to determine where you can send your child, whether or not you can afford it and what you are willing to put up with once your child is enrolled.

Play Preschool Challenge below — click on “Find a PreK.” For easier viewing, go directly to Hechinger’s site here.

The Hechinger Report wants to hear from you! We are always adding to our reporting on preschool and other early childhood issues. What was your experience finding a preschool for your 4-year-old like? How did it differ from the path you followed in the interactive? What did you care about the most in looking for a child care or preschool for your child? What factors most affected your final decision?

Fill out our short survey to tell us more about your experience and ask questions we may be able to answer in future reporting projects on The Hechinger Report and PBS NewsHour.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.