Text-Messaging Parents Can Help Kids Learn to Read—Especially If the Curriculum Is Personalized and Differentiated

Reading growth with text-messaging

Educational interventions based on behavioral economics principles have shown promise for combatting some of the persistent disparities in education outcomes. Researchers have studied text-messaging “nudges” and found them to be successful at all levels of education, from pre-K to the transition to college.

With this in mind, Christopher Doss, Erin M. Fahle, Susanna Loeb, and Benjamin York dug deeper to look at how personalizing text messages to the recipient could make a difference. Their work aims to identify the importance of personalization and differentiation within a text-messaging program designed to help parents of kindergarteners support the literacy development of their children at home.
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Text-Messaging Program READY4K! Supports Early Literacy Development in the Home

Sample Ready4K texts

Racial and socioeconomic gaps in academic achievement begin early in life, with large gaps in skills present by the time children enter kindergarten. One factor contributing to this educational inequality is the great variation in home learning experiences.

Researchers and practitioners have taken a variety of approaches to help parents support the literacy development of their children. Examples include interventions during doctors’ visits or hosting workshops for parents at schools. Unfortunately, these traditional approaches are hampered by their relative infrequency and/or substantial demands on parents’ time.

Benjamin York, Susanna Loeb, and Christopher Doss wondered whether something as common as a text message could improve the home learning experience. “In this study, we field a randomized control trial to test the efficacy of a text messaging intervention that leverages lessons from behavioral economics on overcoming barriers to adult behavior change.”
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Unintended Consequences—How Targeting Schools for Special Benefits in France Can Do More Harm Than Good

student reading

Compensatory education policies—policies aimed at offsetting educational inequalities between socially and academically disadvantaged children and more advantaged students—are widely used and represent a significant part of public education spending in many countries. In France, they correspond to about ten percent of the annual spending per pupil. They provide underprivileged schools with additional resources to compensate for social and academic disadvantages. In a new JHR paper, Laurent Davezies (CREST) and Manon Garrouste (University of Lille) propose some evidence to explain why these programs are often not working as intended.
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Study: Program with Tablets and Texts Improves Family Reading Time

tablets

“Tablets and texts nudge parents to read to kids” describes a new JHR-published study aimed at finding ways to help families increase parents’ time reading to their children. The Parents and Children Together (PACT) experiment involved having parents set goals for reading time. Each family received a tablet preloaded with children’s books, and the parents received text prompts to follow up on reading goals. They also received weekly feedback on the actual amount of time they spent reading and earned digital rewards for meeting goals.
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Preschool and Parents’ Reactions in a Developing Country: Evidence from a School Construction Experiment in Cambodia

preschool boy

Studies from low-, middle-, and high-income countries show that children brought up in a more favorable early environment benefit in the long run. They are healthier, taller, have higher cognitive ability and educational attainment, and earn significantly higher wages. As a result, preschool construction programs are often assumed to hold considerable promise to increase school readiness while reducing socioeconomic gaps in human capital development. Researchers Adrien Bouguen (University of Mannheim), Deon Filmer (World Bank), Karen Macours (Paris School of Economics and INRA), and Sophie Naudeau (World Bank) examined a school construction project in Cambodia to see if this kind of effort had the desired results. They found that a poor understanding of parent response may be at the heart of the program’s disappointing results.
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