Every Child Reads

Posted in Projects

Designing a program for families to build reading habits at home

Effective early reading habits are the backbone of a child’s academic success across all subjects. They are also predictive of a number of later life outcomes, including higher education attainment and income. Yet in 2011, more than two-thirds of fourth graders in U.S. public schools were not reading proficiently. For multiple reasons, living in poverty makes it even harder for children to learn. Half of all low-income fourth graders do not score above basic levels—a key step in reaching proficiency—on literacy assessments.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: children and parents reading together at home. Children at this age only spend 13% of their waking hours in school; the rest is mostly spent at home, where parents are their primary and most impactful teachers.

Parents readily acknowledge the value of their children’s reading skills, and they also often recognize the potential impact of their own involvement. But many struggle to follow through with their intention to regularly read with their children. For many parents, having to balance complex needs like (often multiple) jobs, childcare, and the constant calculations required of living with limited finances means reading simply isn’t built in to their day.

That’s why, in partnership with Stand for Children, a national nonprofit dedicated to student success, we developed Every Child Reads, a family literacy program focused on making it easier for parents to support their children’s literacy attainment. This program will help parents build sustainable, effective at-home reading habits by providing easy access to books and personalized support designed using behavioral science. It offers other resources to empower parents as well, including guiding them on how to advocate for their children’s educational resources.

We’re piloting Every Child Reads with 50 families in Holyoke, MA. Over the next several months, we’ll be monitoring, adjusting, and refining the program based on initial reception with an eye towards scalability. We’ll also be tracking changes in children’s reading frequency, duration, and ability throughout their participation in Every Child Reads. With our partners at Stand for Children, we hope to apply what we learn in this pilot to scale Every Child Reads to schools and communities nationwide.

Together, we’re working to close the gap in childhood literacy, and taking steps to level the playing field for millions more children later in life using behavioral science.

Interested in learning more about our behavioral approach to addressing gaps in childhood literacy? Contact us at cassie@ideas42.org or tweet @ideas42 to join the conversation.