Study: Program with Tablets and Texts Improves Family Reading Time


“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.

According to one of the researchers, Susan Mayer, a professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, the goal was to create a program using behavioral tools “to help parents overcome cognitive roadblocks to spending time reading to their children.”

The researchers report two key findings:
“Parents in the treatment group doubled the amount of time they spent reading to their child.”
“Parents in the treatment group read an average of almost five books per week, while those who were not, read an average of two or three.”

For the full study, see “Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together Intervention,” by Susan E. Mayer, Ariel Kalil, Philip Oreopoulos and Sebastian Gallegos.

Photo credit: Robert Kozloff, University of Chicago

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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