A Simple Enrollment change yields big Dividends in children's early Learning Programmes

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Researchers know that text programs can be of great benefit to children's reading. Now new research shows that parental involvement in such programs can be rapidly increased with a simple adaptation: automatic registration combined with the possibility of a ban.


New research from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy will appear in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.


In recent years, more and more research shows that texting has become an effective, affordable, and measurable strategy for engaging parents in children's learning. Some studies offer text message intervention with advice for parents on how to support a child's development, which can lead to children's learning up to 2-3 months ago.


However, getting parents to sign up for helpful programs can be challenging. With this in mind, researchers have developed a study to test strategies to increase participation in programs.


In the study, researchers from Duke, New York University and Brooklyn College compared different admissions options for a "Talk to a Child" early reading text program. The 26-week text course is designed to promote early language development in children from birth to 3 years of age.

The researchers studied 405 mothers receiving home newborn services as part of a free program in New York City. Using a randomized controlled trial, the researchers examined whether a change in record selection option affected refusal to purchase and complete an early literacy program. The participants are mostly poor and of different races and nationalities.


Results show that with automatic enrollment, 88.7 percent of study participants stayed in the program for the 26 weeks. In contrast, only 1 percent of mothers in the control group who learned about the program through regular brochures voluntarily participated in the program. The findings suggest that parents' desire to participate in the program may be high, but their ability to follow it is difficult, the researchers note.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, these programs and other digital strategies to reach parents could be particularly helpful, the researchers said.


"A lot of time is spent developing effective and relevant content for these programs and enough time is spent figuring out how to facilitate parental involvement," said Lisa A. Genetian, lead author of the study and a Pritzker associate professor of policy research at initial stage. Duke Sanford School of Public Policy. "It's important that parents are able to participate in programs, especially those that are available globally and for free, and we learned from this study that automatic registration reduces the burden on parents. And it can have huge benefits in ways that don't get


The study was one of the first to show that automatic registration is a promising strategy to increase participation in languages ​​and curricula at an early stage.


The study also showed a decision to stay on the program or forgo consistency across different subgroups. For example, it does not matter when it comes to the first birth or when others received government benefits. These characteristics are sometimes called obstacles to program participation.


"Acceptable methods are used freely in many aspects of our lives, from organ donation to retirement decisions, and they work with caution," Genetian says. "Why don't we make life easier for parents and apply the same approach to automatic registration with the option to opt out?"

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