One Step at a Time: The Effects of an Early Literacy Text Messaging Program for Parents of Preschoolers

Benjamin N. York, Susanna Loeb

NBER Working Paper No. 20659
Issued in November 2014
NBER Program(s):   CH   HE   ED

Substantial systematic differences exist in children’s home learning experiences. The few existing parenting programs that have shown promise often are not widely accessible, either due to the demands they place on parents’ time and effort or cost. In this study, we evaluate the effects of READY4K!, a text messaging program for parents of preschoolers designed to help them support their children’s literacy development. The program targets the behavioral barriers to good parenting by breaking down the complexity of parenting into small steps that are easy-to-achieve and providing continuous support for an entire school year. We find that READY4K! positively affected the extent to which parents engaged in home literacy activities with their children by 0.22 to 0.34 standard deviations, as well as parental involvement at school by 0.13 to 0.19 standard deviations. Increases in parental activity at home and school translated into student learning gains in some areas of early literacy, ranging from approximately 0.21 to 0.34 standard deviations. The widespread use, low cost, and ease of scalability of text messaging make texting an attractive approach to supporting parenting practices.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Information about Free Papers

You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

This paper was revised on November 10, 2014

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20659

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Kahn and Walsh w20503 Cities and the Environment
Bloom, Lemos, Sadun, and Van Reenen w20667 Does Management Matter in Schools
Besley and Rosen w6667 Sales Taxes and Prices: An Empirical Analysis
Lavecchia, Liu, and Oreopoulos w20609 Behavioral Economics of Education: Progress and Possibilities
Bacher-Hicks, Kane, and Staiger w20657 Validating Teacher Effect Estimates Using Changes in Teacher Assignments in Los Angeles
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us