Tips by text: Can nudges make kids better readers?


“Counting is one of the first maths skills that children learn. As you put the dishes away, count the plates 1-by-1 with your child. Try again with the spoons”.

This is an example of a text message delivered by the Tips by Text project, which will target British parents of four and five-year-olds with three texts per week to improve literacy, arithmetic, and social-emotional skills at home.

The project — inspired by similar efforts in the US — aims to be a scalable, cheap way to boost kids’ learning. But how will it work, and what’s the behavioural science behind it?


Susanna Loeb of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, a former academic advisor with Ready4K, Is helping BIT to adapt the texting program into a UK context.

“The main barrier to successful implementation in the UK is to ensure that the text messages are relevant to parents in the North East of England,” said Loeb.

“BIT and I are working together to implement an extensive piloting phase with parents and teachers to ensure the messages are suitable for the target population,” she said.

Building upon Ready4K’s method, the texts will focus on quick and simple tasks: the first looks to instruct and motivate, the second offers a specific activity, and the third concludes with reinforcement and follow-up.

“The messages have to be short,” Loeb said, “So they are quick to read and parents can read them on the go. We’ve also made the text give tips that are easy to put into practice and usually fun.” The purpose is simple: make parenting easier, not harder.

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