A new initiative by researchers has shown that sending reminders and suggestions via text messages help parents help kids to read. It is well known that the children of wealthy parents are exposed in the beginning of their lives to many more words than the children of low income parents. The vocabulary gap never closes, resulting in poor children lagging in literacy when they first enter school.
One low cost method to help is being tested by researchers. Sending three text messages a week to the parents of pre-K students costs about $1 per family. So far there is early evidence that the texts which suggest easy ways to support kids literacy development is effective.
The parents were recruited in San Francisco by researchers at Stanford University. Parents who agreed to participate in the text message study agreed to receive three text messages weekly with specific suggestions for how to help children learn to read, and encourage success at school. The control group received weekly messages about school matters such as vaccinations and kindergarten registration.
The researchers found that the parents who received the texts about reading activities were more likely than the control group to play games and work puzzles with their children, as well as telling stories and pointing out words that begin with the same sound. The results were publishes in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, and showed that these parents were more likely to ask the teachers questions about what children were learning in school and how they could supplement the activities at home.
The most effective texts got parents to do specific things, like point out letter sounds, rather than general activities like reading to the children. The researchers conclude that this suggests parent are receptive to getting guidance that breaks down a large task into manageable items.