Increasing the time parents read to their children
The recent Commission on Inequality in Education report highlighted, among other things, how important it was for parents to read regularly to children under 5 as a predictor of good attainment.
How could this be encouraged?
Evidence suggests that wealthier parents spend more time engaging with their children, particularly when it comes to educational activities. The speculation is that low-income parents, strapped for time and money, may be so focused on immediate needs that they are forced to ignore other important considerations. Failing to connect with their children can have costly long-term implications.
Researchers from the Universities of Chicago and Toronto held an experiment that used behavioral nudges to encourage parents to engage more with their children. The participants in the study were 169 parents whose children were enrolled in a subsidized preschool program. All 169 parents received electronic tablets that were pre-loaded with over 500 children’s books and kept track of the amount of time parents read to their kids using the device. In addition, a randomly-selected subset of these parents received various 'nudges'.
On average, parents who received 'nudges' read 88.3 minutes more to their children than parents in the control group—an increase of over 100%.
What were the 'nudges'?
The program consisted of three nudges:
Parents were asked to set a 'minutes' reading goal at the beginning of each week. Then, at the end of each week, parents were informed how many minutes they had read to their children using the device. They also received a congratulatory text when they reached their reading goal.
A daily text message that stressed the importance of reading to children, and encouraged parents to do it more.
A mass text message to all parents that commended the parent who had read the most in a given week.
The experiment shows that behavioral nudges can increase parental engagement and benefit children. It is important to note, though, that the sample for the study was drawn from a self-selected group of parents, who valued preschool programs enough to enrol their children in one. However, gains could be significant if the results hold true for all.
I was thinking how this could be adapted to be less technology based for a church reaching out to the community especially given parent/toddler activities. Here's some thoughts:
If it has not already. a church could create a reading library with donated books for 5's and under.
It could advertise, let people know about a reading campaign e.g. Storytime or something similar linked to its parent/toddlers group.
Parents who attend take away a book or books for that week and register name, their mobile, their partner's mobile (if not single parent) and the book(s).
All parents in the scheme receive a text commending them individually and as a group and encouraging them to read the books they've selected that week to their children.
Every 2-3 days, they receive a personalised text saying hope reading of xxxx book is going well and well done.
When books returned, encourage parents to invite other local parents into the scheme.
Not only helps improves children's educational outcomes but also could help you make new contacts and grow.
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