A very cheap intervention — texting low-income parents with literacy tips — improved preschoolers’ language skills significantly in a Stanford study.
Half of the parents received thrice-weekly texts for eight months with messages like “By saying beginning word sounds, like ‘ttt’ in taco & tomato, you’re preparing your child 4 K,” or “Let your child hold the book. Ask what it is about. Follow the words with your finger as you read.”
. . . The other half of the parents received one text message every two weeks with simple information about kindergarten enrollment or vaccinations.
Parents who received the literacy texts were far more likely to report pointing out rhyming words or describing pictures in a book to their children than those who received the more general texts.
. . . And when the children were given tests of letter and sound recognition, those whose parents had received the literacy texts had scores that indicated they were about two to three months ahead of those children whose parents had received only the general information texts.
The program cost less than $1 per child because 80 percent of the families already had unlimited text messaging plans on their cellphones, notes the New York Times. “That compares to home visiting programs that can cost close to $10,000 per child and require that families devote a considerable amount of time during an intensive period.”