There was a time, not too long ago, when children went to preschool to learn their ABC’s and a few other basics. But kindergarteners are much better prepared for future success if they’re exposed to sophisticated vocabulary and critical thinking about books — both in the classroom and at home.

That’s the conclusion of new research from Vanderbilt University, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. But Vanderbilt’s findings are a timely reminder, as another school year gains full speed, that even the youngest children often can learn much more — and more quickly — than we typically think they can.

Vanderbilt researchers concluded that when preschool teachers used sophisticated language at school — even when talking with children at lunch or at play time — students had improved reading comprehension and word recognition as fourth-graders.

Vanderbilt’s research underscores the need for effective, accessible preschool education for all youngsters. That must be a special priority in Louisiana, where low levels of educational attainment have kept too many of our residents in poverty, and diminished the state’s prospects for economic development.