Does Reading During the Summer Build Reading Skills? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in 463 Classrooms
There are large gaps in reading skills by family income among school-aged children in the United States. Correlational evidence suggests that reading skills are strongly related to the amount of reading students do outside of school. Experimental evidence testing whether this relationship is causal is lacking. We report the results from a randomized evaluation of a summer reading program called Project READS, which induces students to read more during the summer by mailing ten books to them, one per week. Simple intent-to-treat estimates show that the program increased reading during the summer, and show significant effects on reading comprehension test scores in the fall for third grade girls but not for third grade boys or second graders of either gender. Analyses that take advantage of within-classroom random assignment and cross-classroom variation in treatment effects show evidence that reading more books generates increases in reading comprehension skills, particularly when students read carefully enough to be able to answer basic questions about the books they read, and particularly for girls.
The authors thank project staff for supporting the implementation of this study, including Kirsten Aleman, Lisa Foster, Helen Chen Kingston, Renee Robins, Gary Rains, Thomas G. White, implementation partners in of Communities in Schools (CIS) of North Carolina, and teachers and principals in the 59 study schools. This study was funded by an Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education (PR/Award # U396B100195). The authors also thank the Wallace Foundation, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Metametrics Inc., the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and two anonymous family foundations for their generous support. However, the contents of this article do not represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and the content is solely the responsibility of the authors. This RCT was registered in the American Economic Association Registry for randomized control trials under trial number AEARCTR-0000551. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.