A study of a programme that sent literacy-related advice via text messages to parents of preschool children showed that it improved both the parents’ literacy behaviour and the children’s early literacy.
READY4K! is an eight-month-long text messaging programme for parents of preschool children. Parents receive texts that cover literacy skills, encourage them to participate, and provide follow-up tips. In the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 519 parents in California were randomly assigned to receive the programme or a series of “placebo” texts (eg, about school enrollment) during the 2013-14 school year.
The texts increased the frequency with which parents read books to children and other literacy activities (effects up to 0.35 standard deviations higher). According to teachers, texted parents asked more questions about their child’s learning (up to 0.19 standard deviations higher) than parents who were in the control group and their children performed better on early measures of literacy – lower-case alphabet knowledge and letter sounds (up to 0.34 standard deviations higher).
The authors say that the widespread use, low cost, and ease of scalability of text messaging make it an attractive approach for supporting parenting practices.
Source: One Step at a Time: The Effects of an Early Literacy Text Messaging Program for Parents of Preschoolers (2014), NBER