Australia’s national education evidence body

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Research evidence cited in the family engagement practice guides is listed below. For a full list of papers included in the rapid review that informed the practice guides, see the detailed methodology. These papers are grouped into meta-analyses, systematic reviews and primary studies. For the practice guides, recent, high-quality meta-analyses and systematic reviews were given the most weight. Primary studies were used to provide specific examples or further explanation.

Note that some of the findings in older meta-analyses and systematic reviews detailed below have been superseded as new research evidence has emerged.

Meta-analyses

Grindal, T., Bowne, J. B., Yoshikawa, H., Schindler, H. S., Duncan, G. J., Magnuson, K., & Shonkoff, J. P. (2016). The added impact of parenting education in early childhood education programs: A meta-analysis. Children and Youth Services Review, 70, 238–249. – early childhood education and care

This meta-analysis of 46 studies examines the associations between the addition of parenting education services to preschool (the year before formal schooling) programs on children's cognitive and pre-academic skills. To be included in the review, studies needed to be high-quality, use experimental or quasi-experimental designs with comparable experimental and comparison groups with at least 10 participants each at follow up; and be based in the United States. This paper finds that:

  1. the addition of general parenting education was not associated with program impacts on short-term measures of children's cognitive or pre-academic skills
  2. there was no difference in this respect between preschool programs that did and did not provide some form of parenting education
  3. preschool programmes that provided frequent parenting education through home visits (one or more home visits per month) yielded larger effect sizes when compared with preschool programmes that provided low frequency home visiting (less than one per month).

Higgins, S., & Katsipataki, M. (2015). Evidence from meta-analysis about parental involvement in education which supports their children’s learning. Journal of Children’s Services, 10(3), 280–290. – primary and secondary

This umbrella review includes findings from 13 meta-analyses focused on parent involvement and home/school partnerships. To be included in the review, studies needed to be quantitative reviews (either systematic or meta-analyses), identify and explain variation in impact between studies, and describe findings relating to an intervention rather than correlational studies. This paper finds there is consistent evidence about the extent of impact from general parent involvement approaches, and for targeted interventions. However, although it is possible to draw ‘good bets’ for practice from the overall findings, the poor quality of studies makes it difficult to provide specific recommendations.

Hill, N. E., & Tyson, D. F. (2009). Parental Involvement in Middle School: A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Strategies That Promote Achievement. Developmental Psychology, 45(3), 740–763. – upper primary and lower secondary

This meta-analysis of 50 studies explores parental involvement in middle school to determine whether and which types of parental involvement are related to achievement. To be included in this review, studies needed to: involve children in years 6-8; include a measure of parental involvement and academic achievement; provide sufficient information to calculate an estimate of the effect size; and be published between 1985 and 2006. The paper found that parental involvement was positively associated with achievement, with the exception of parental help with homework.

Note: This study is included in Higgins & Katsipataki (2015).

Noble, C., Sala, G., Peter, M., Lingwood, J., Rowland, C., Gobet, F., & Pine, J. (2019). The impact of shared book reading on children’s language skills: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 28, 100290. (open access) – early childhood education and care and primary

This meta-analysis of 54 studies examines whether shared reading interventions are equally effective across study designs, outcome variables and for children from different socio-economic groups. To be included in the review, studies needed to use a control group; describe a shared book reading intervention with preschool (the year before formal schooling) or school age children aged 7 years or younger; involve typically developing children; not target multilingual populations; and report an objective quantitative measure of language ability. Included studies were published between 1989 and 2017. This paper finds that:

  1. there is a positive effect of shared reading on language development, although this effect is smaller than reported in previous meta-analyses
  2. the effect is moderated by the type of control group used (meaning that studies where control groups received another activity/intervention found near zero effects, while studies with control groups that received no contact or were “business as usual” found small effects
  3. there are no significant differences based on outcome variable (for example, receptive vocabulary or phonological awareness), socio-economic status or other potential moderators.

Sheridan, S. M., Smith, T. E., Moorman Kim, E., Beretvas, S. N., & Park, S. (2019). A Meta-Analysis of Family-School Interventions and Children’s Social Emotional Functioning: Moderators and Components of Efficacy. Review of Educational Research, 89(2), 296–332. – early childhood education and care, primary and secondary 

This meta-analysis of 117 studies examines the effects of family-school interventions on children’s social-emotional functioning. To be included in the review, studies needed to use an experimental, quasi-experimental design or pre-/post-test design; involve students from preschool (the year before formal
schooling) through grade 12; present outcomes measuring the effects of the intervention; and be conducted between 2001 and 2014. This paper finds that:

  1. family-school interventions were effective whether a study's sample was composed of children in preschool, elementary school, or high school
  2. intervention outcomes were not dependent on age for either social-behavioural competence or mental health outcomes
  3. communication, collaboration, parent-teacher relationships, home-based involvement and behavioural supports yielded statistically significant positive effects on both social-behavioural competencies and mental health outcomes
  4. parental involvement with homework was not significantly related to any social-behavioural or mental health outcomes.

Note: This paper has been updated by Smith et al. (2020).

Smith, T. E., Sheridan, S. M., Kim, E. M., Park, S., & Beretvas, S. N. (2020). The Effects of Family-School Partnership Interventions on Academic and Social-Emotional Functioning: A Meta-Analysis Exploring What Works for Whom. Educational Psychology Review, 32(2), 511–544. – early childhood education and care, primary and secondary 

This meta-analysis of 77 studies examines the effects of family-school partnership interventions on student outcomes. To be included in the review, studies needed to use an experimental, quasi-experimental or pre-/post-test design; investigate an intervention targeting family-school interventions for students from preschool (the year before formal schooling) to grade 12; take place in a naturalistic setting; measure the effects of an intervention on children’s academic achievement, academic behaviours, social-behavioural competency or mental health outcomes; and be published between 2001 and 2014. This paper finds:

  1. that family-school partnership interventions positively impact children’s academic achievement, academic behaviours social-behavioural competence, and mental health
  2. neither homework involvement (for example, monitoring or direct aid), school-based involvement (for example, volunteering in the school or classroom), or behavioural support (for example, delivery of concrete reinforcement) were found to significantly impact children’s academic or social-behavioural functioning
  3. one-way home to school communication and parent-teacher relationships (for example, creating joint perspectives) did not significantly relate to any positive effects on children’s academic or social-emotional functioning
  4. bi-directional communication (that is, contact from home to school and school to home) had a significant impact on social-behavioural competence
  5. collaboration (for example, planning and problem-solving) had a significant impact on children’s academic achievement, social-behavioural competence and mental health.

Note: This paper expands and updates Sheridan et al. (2019).

Systematic reviews

See, B. H., Gorard, S., El-Soufi, N., Lu, B., Siddiqui, N., & Dong, L. (2021). A systematic review of the impact of technology-mediated parental engagement on student outcomes. Educational Research and Evaluation, 1–32. (open access) – early childhood education and care, primary and secondary 

This systematic review of 29 studies examines the use of educational technology in schools that engage parents at home and have the potential to reduce teacher workload and improve student outcomes. To be included in the review, studies needed to describe empirical research; focus on the use of digital technology in the school context to engage parents; include young people aged from 2-18 years; be based in a mainstream school; and measure effects on student academic outcomes and behavioural/affective outcomes. This paper finds reasonably good evidence that low-cost technology nudges such as school–parent communication via phone, texts, or emails is promising. For early childhood settings, these nudges included information such as ideas for daily activities, games to play with children and tips/advice on how to play these games. For schools, these nudges involved information about missing assignments, grades, upcoming texts, missing homework or attendance summaries. There is already existing evidence that communicating with parents about how their children are doing in school and keeping them informed of schoolwork can have a positive effect on children’s learning, but such messages must be personalised, linked to learning and positive.

O’Connor, A., Nolan, A., Bergmeier, H., Hooley, M., Olsson, C., Cann, W., Williams-Smith, J., & Skouteris, H. (2017). Early childhood education and care educators supporting parent-child relationships: A systematic literature review. Early Years, 37(4), 400–422. – early childhood education and care

This systematic review of 21 studies evaluates the efficacy of interventions, programs, and strategies that have been implemented to foster parent–child relationships to support the social and emotional development of preschool (the year before formal schooling) children. Articles were included in the review if they: explored interventions designed to promote parent–child relationships; were developed for preschool aged children 0–5 years and their parents and conducted in ECEC settings or in a range of settings supporting parents and children (play groups, community groups and health centres); examined children’s social and emotional development; and were peer-reviewed. The review revealed that current parent–child relationship and children’s social and emotional development interventions and programs are not designed specifically for use by educators in ECEC settings to promote parent–child relationships. However, many educators would already be engaging in positive practices to build strong relationships and share information regarding children’s social and emotional development.

See, B. H. (2015b). Identifying the most promising parental involvement interventions with impact on learning outcomes for primary school-aged children (2nd report). School of Education, Durham University. (open access) – early childhood education and care and primary 

This scoping review of 54 papers aims to identify parental involvement studies that have an impact on the school outcomes of children aged from 7 years up to when they transition to secondary school. To be included in the review, papers needed to focus on any type of parental involvement programs designed to enhance parents' participation in their child's learning and in their own learning; present outcomes such as performance on standardised tests, teacher assessments, school attendance and attitude towards subjects; and be published from 2000 to 2014. This paper finds that:

  • interventions to improve the school outcomes of primary school-aged children and children at transition to secondary are largely concerned with parental training, home-school collaboration, and parents working with children at home
  • the existing evidence is poor for a number of types of interventions, including training parents to read to their children at home.

See, B. H., & Gorard, S. (2015). Does intervening to enhance parental involvement in education lead to better academic results for children? An extended review. Journal of Children’s Services, 10(3), 252–264.  – early childhood education and care and primary 

This systematic review of 127 studies examines literature linking parental involvement in their children’s education to attainment at or before primary school. To be included in the review, papers needed to report evaluation studies; focus on parent involvement programs which intend to enhance parents’ participation in their children's learning; and be published between 1990 and 2014. This paper finds that while several studies reported positive effects for parental involvement, most of these provided very weak, low-quality evidence. Limitations included the lack of a comparison group, use of a non-randomised comparison, no prepost-test comparisons, small samples, high attrition and measures relying on teacher perception of a child’s progress. The review also noted that a large number of interventions for pre-school children showed no promise of improving young children’s attainment, albeit based on weak evaluations.

Note: This paper summarises See (2015a) and See (2015b).

Primary studies 

A primary study is an individual or single study. The term “primary study” does not necessarily mean the study has been carried out in primary schools.

Bergman, P., & Chan, E. W. (2015). Leveraging Technology to Engage Parents at Scale: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial. CESifo Working paper no. 6493. (open access) – primary and secondary 

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial of 462 students in grades 6 to 11 and 242 students’ guardians who were randomly selected to receive additional information about their child's academic progress. The trial aimed to explore whether this reporting from schools to parents is associated with student performance. Parents received text messages, phone calls or emails presenting missed assignments and student grades several times a month over a six-month period. This study finds that additional information to parents about their child's missing assignments and grades helps parents motivate their children more effectively and changes parents' beliefs about their child's effort in school, ultimately reducing student course failures by 38%, and increasing class attendance by 17%. There were no effects on standardised test scores.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Burgoyne, K., Gardner, R., Whiteley, H., Snowling, M. J., & Hulme, C. (2018). Evaluation of a parent-delivered early language enrichment programme: Evidence from a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(5), 545–555. – early childhood education and care

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial of 208 preschool (the year before formal schooling) children and their parents in the United Kingdom, where families were allocated to either an oral language program or a program targeting motor skills. With the support of centre staff, parents delivered the programs to their child at home in daily 20-minute sessions over 30 weeks. Families were invited to a small-group training session at their centre where they were informed of the project background, an overview and rationale for their teaching program, and a detailed look at the program materials. This study finds that children receiving the language program made significantly larger gains in language and narrative skills than the children receiving the motor skills program. These effects were maintained 6 months later, where the language group also scored higher on tests of early literacy.

Cabell, S. Q., Zucker, T. A., DeCoster, J., Copp, S. B., & Landry, S. (2019). Impact of a Parent Text Messaging Program on Pre-Kindergarteners’ Literacy Development. AERA Open, 5(1), 233285841983333. (open access) – early childhood education and care

This single study presents findings from a randomised control trial of 177 parents and their 4-year-old children, exploring the impact of a parent text messaging program on pre-kindergarteners' literacy development. Parents received text messages with either a language and literacy focus, or a health and wellbeing focus over a period of 25 weeks. This study finds that children entering the school year with higher skill levels benefited from the language/literacy program while those with lower initial skill levels benefited from the health/wellbeing program.

Chao, P.-C., Bryan, T., Burstein, K., & Ergul, C. (2006). Family-Centered Intervention for Young Children at-risk for Language and Behavior Problems. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(2), 147–153. – early childhood education and care

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial of 41 children aged 3–5-years at risk for language and behaviour problems. Families in the intervention group received parent-professional support and were trained to use the Child Behaviour and Language Assessment (CBLA), completed weekly
assessments of their children and submitted summaries to project staff. In addition to using the CBLA, families in the intervention group participated in an ongoing relationship with project staff. This study finds that children in the intervention group out-performed children in the control group, indicating that family-centred intervention is an effective method for empowering families to identify and implement concrete solutions to their children’s problems, especially when done as part of a professional collaboration.

Note: This study is included in Smith et al. (2021).

Colgate, O., & Ginns, P. (2016) The effects of social norms on parents’ reading behaviour at home with their child. Educational Psychology, 36(5), 1009-1023.– primary

This paper presents findings from two quasi-experiments in Australia involving a total of 124 children, examining the influence of parent social norms on parent’s home reading behaviour with their child. Two elementary schools were included in the study, with children aged from 5 to 7 years. Parents in the intervention group received a note encouraging them to participate in the New South Wales Premier’s Reading Challenge, whereby families read a minimum of 30 books with their child at home over a period of 6 months. This study finds that across the two schools, the intervention resulted in significantly more parents completing the reading, compared to the control classes who did not receive the information.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Doss, C., Fahle, E., Loeb, S., & York, B. (2017). Supporting Parenting through Differentiated and Personalized Text-Messaging: Testing Effects on Learning During Kindergarten. (CEPA Working Paper No.16-18). (open access) – early childhood education and care

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial, investigating the effects of a text-based program for kindergarten (the year before formal schooling) parents over a period of 8 months. Children in the differentiated and personalised program received 3 text messages per week based on the child’s developmental level with one or some of the following: 

  • facts, containing information about the skills of the week and the importance of that skill for academic growth
  • tips, suggesting a home literacy activity based on that skill
  • growth, containing a more advanced activity that was meant to extend the learning opportunity presented earlier that week, as well as encouragement aimed to provide immediate gratification.

Families in the ‘general’ group received the ‘facts’, ‘tips’ and ‘growth’ text messages each week, like the intervention group, however the content of their ‘tips’ and ‘growth’ texts did not include the strength of their children on the particular skill (for example, every family received the same activity, rather than one differentiated for their child). Control families received one text every two weeks containing general information (for example, about available services or emergency procedures) that did not promote parent-child interactions. This study finds that children in the differentiated and personalised program were 50% more likely to read at a higher level than the general group, and their parents reported engaging more in literacy activities compared to the control group.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Goldfeld, S., Napiza, N., Quach, J., Reilly, S., Ukoumunne, O. and Wake, M. (2011). Outcomes of a universal shared reading interventions by 2 years of age: the let’s read trial. Pediatrics, 127(3), 445–53.  – early childhood education and care

This paper presents findings from a cluster randomised control trial in Australia of 552 families with children aged between 4 and 18 months, examining whether a population-based primary care literacy promotion intervention improves early markers of subsequent literacy by 2 years of age. The intervention comprised maternal and child health nurses modelling shared reading activities to parents, supported by parent information and free books. This study finds that the universal literacy-promotion program was not beneficial by the age of 2 years and may be ineffective. Alternative interpretations may relate to program intensity, reach and/or sleeper effects.

Note: This study is included in See & Gorard (2015). A follow-up study was also published measuring effects at 4 years of age.

Jelley, F., Sylva, K., & Karemaker, A. (2016). EasyPeasy parenting app: Findings from an efficacy trial on parental engagement and school readiness skills. The Sutton Trust. (open access) – early childhood education and care

This short report presents findings from an efficacy trial of EasyPeasy — a program that aims to mobile app prompts to improve child development by increasing positive parent-child interaction through play at home for parents of preschool aged children. EasyPeasy is designed to improve early child development through increasing positive parent-child interactions and learning at home. The app sends regular game ideas to parents that they can play with their children, combined with information on child development. A small-scale randomised controlled trial was carried out in 8 children’s centres to assess the effects of EasyPeasy on parent engagement and children’s school readiness skills. A total of 150 families were recruited and individually assigned to one of the two groups. The EasyPeasy intervention lasted for 18 weeks, after which the study found there was a significant effect on children’s cognitive self-regulation and parents' self-efficacy regarding discipline and boundaries.

Note: This study is included in See et al. (2021).

Jelley, F., & Sylva, K. (2018). EasyPeasy: Evaluation in Newham: Findings from the Sutton Trust Parental Engagement Fund (PEP) Project. The Sutton Trust. (open access) – early childhood education and care

This report presents the findings from an evaluation of EasyPeasy, a program that aims to use text messaging and mobile app prompts to improve child development by increasing positive parent-child interaction through play at home. A two-group randomised controlled trial was carried out to assess the efficacy of EasyPeasy as used by parents registered in children’s centres over a 3-month period. A total of 302 eligible families with children aged 3-4 years were recruited from across the eight centres. Randomisation was at the centre level, meaning that four children’s centres were allocated to the intervention group, who received the app straight away, and four were allocated to the comparison group, who acted as a no-treatment control during the period of the trial but received the app after the trial was completed. This study found that families in the intervention group (those with access to EasyPeasy) had significantly higher scores than the comparison group on two parent-reported outcomes: children’s cognitive self-regulation and parents’ sense of control.

Note: This study is included in See et al. (2021).

Kim, J. S., Guryan, J., White, T. G., Quinn, D. M., Capotosto, L., & Kingston, H. C. (2016). Delayed Effects of a Low-Cost and Large-Scale Summer Reading Intervention on Elementary School Children’s Reading Comprehension. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 9, 1–22. – primary

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial of 6,383 second and third grade children, examining the effectiveness of a low-cost and large-scale summer reading intervention on reading comprehension. The intervention included comprehension lessons at the end of the school year and stimulated home based summer reading routines with narrative and informational books. This study finds that the intervention had significant positive impact on children's reading comprehension, and the program was more cost-effective than existing programs.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Kraft, M.A., & Dougherty, S.M. (2013). The effect of teacher–family communication on student engagement: Evidence from a randomized field experiment. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 6(3),199–222. – primary and secondary

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial of 145 students in sixth and ninth grade, examining the effects of a daily phone call home and written message during a mandatory summer school program on student engagement. This study finds that frequent teacher-family communication immediately increased student engagement as measured by homework completion rates, on-task behaviour, and class participation. Additionally, it identified 3 primary mechanisms through which communication likely affected engagement: stronger teacher-student relationships, expanded parental involvement and increased student motivation.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Kraft, M. A., & Rogers, T. (2015). The underutilized potential of teacher-to-parent communication: Evidence from a field experiment. Economics of Education Review, 47, 49–63. – secondary

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial of 1,417 students, examining the effect of weekly one-sentence individualised messages from teachers to the parents of high school students. This study finds that messages decreased the percentage of students who failed to earn course credit, and prevented dropouts. Additionally, the intervention shaped the content of parent-child conversations. Messages that emphasised what students could improve, rather than what students were doing well, produced the largest effects.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Miller, S., Davison, J., Yohanis, J., Sloan, S., Gildea, A. and Thurston, A. (2017) Texting parents: Evaluation report and executive summary. London: Education Endowment Foundation. (open access) – primary and secondary

This report presents the findings from the Parent Engagement Project — a school-level intervention designed to improve pupil outcomes by engaging parents in their learning. The intervention involved text messages being sent to parents using school communications systems. Messages informed parents about dates of upcoming tests, whether homework was submitted on time, and what their children were learning at school. A total of 15,697 students in years 7, 9 and 11 were involved, with schools sending an average of 30 texts to each parent over the period of the trial. This study finds that children who received the intervention:

  • experienced approximately one month of additional progress in maths
  • had reduced absenteeism
  • experienced approximately one month of additional progress in English.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Neumann, M. M. (2018). The effects of a parent–child environmental print program on emergent literacy. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 16(4), 337–348. – early childhood education and care

This paper presents findings from a randomised control trial in Australia of 32 parent-child dyads, examining the effects of a parent-child environmental print program on emergent literacy skills. Dyads in Queensland participated in an 8-week program that used multisensory strategies to identify, trace and write letters and words embedded in environmental prints such as STOP signs and product labels (for example, Weet-Bix labels). This study finds that the intervention group showed improvements across all measures of letter knowledge, letter writing, name writing, print concepts, environmental print reading and numeral name
knowledge, making significant gains in letter knowledge and environmental print reading.

Robinson-Smith, L., Menzies, V., Cramman, H., Wang. Y., Fairhurst, C., Hallett, S., Beckmann, N., Merrell, C., Torgerson, C., Stothard, S., & Siddiqui, N. (2019). EasyPeasy: Learning through play (Evaluation Report). London: Education Endowment Foundation. (open access) – early childhood education and care

This report presents findings from the EasyPeasy project, a program that aims to use text messaging and mobile app prompts to improve child development by increasing positive parent-child interaction through play at home. A randomised control trial of 102 primary schools explored the impact of the program on children's language development. A total of 1,205 aged 3-4 years children were included in the evaluation. EasyPeasy provides game ideas to the parents of preschool children to encourage play-based learning at home, with the aim of developing children’s language development and self-regulation. Parents receive a text message directly from EasyPeasy which links to videos of example games they can play with their children, plus tips and advice about learning through play. The intervention lasted 20 weeks, with parents receiving weekly texts linked to 65 games over this period. Use of EasyPeasy was supported by a member of nursery staff (the ‘Pod Leader’), trained by EasyPeasy. This study finds that: 

  • children in schools receiving EasyPeasy did not make an additional progress in language development measured by a composite summary language score, although there were small increases in word structure and concepts and following directions language subscales
  • children who received EasyPeasy made small increases in sociability, cognitive self-regulation, and emotional self-regulation
  • parents reported improvements in the home learning environment.

Note: This study is included in See et al. (2021).

Sheridan, S. M., Knoche, L. L., Boise, C. E., Moen, A. L., Lester, H., Edwards, C. P., Schumacher, R., & Cheng, K. (2019). Supporting preschool children with developmental concerns: Effects of the Getting Ready intervention on school-based social competencies and relationships. Early Childhood Research Quarterly,
48, 303–316.
 – early childhood education and care

This paper reports the results of a randomised control trial examining the impact of the Getting Ready parent engagement intervention on young children's social-emotional competencies and the quality of the student-teacher and parent-teacher relationships. Participants were 267 preschool-aged children (3-5 years) and their parents, as well as 97 preschool teachers. The intervention focuses on enhancing relationships within and between systems and strengthening collaborative partnerships, promoting parental warmth, sensitivity and active participation in supporting children's early learning. This study finds that children in the treatment group were rated by their teachers to have greater improvement in social skills over 2 years, compared to their peers in the comparison condition. Teachers reported significantly greater increases in their relationships with parents.

Soto, X., Seven, Y., McKenna, M., Madsen, K., Peters-Sanders, L., Kelley, E. S., & Goldsteina, H. (2020). Iterative Development of a Home Review Program to Promote Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Skills: Social Validity and Learning Outcomes. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools, 51(2), 371–389. – early childhood education and care

This paper presents findings from two experiments, which used adapted alternating treatment designs to compare the learning of academic words taught at school to words taught at school and reviewed at home. A total of 19 children, aged 4 and 5 years were involved in the study, whereby children were taught academic words embedded in pre-recorded storybooks for 6 weeks at school, and provided with materials such as stickers with review prompts to take home for half of the words. The home review component also included in-person training, video modelling and daily text message reminders. The results of this small-scale study
were mixed, with only one site showing consistently strong effects.

Stein, M. L. (2017). Supporting the summer reading of urban youth: An evaluation of the Baltimore SummerREADS Program. Education and Urban Society, 49(1), 29–52. – primary

This paper presents findings from an evaluation of the first 2 years of a summer learning program that provided self-selected and developmentally appropriate books to students in low-income and low-resource primary schools. 20 schools with students in the second and third grade took part in the study, with 15 schools serving as comparison schools. The total sample comprised 4,881 students. Schools identified a coordinator who was designated to work with the SummerREADS program manager to facilitate the program in the school. The coordinators were asked to schedule a date for a book fair for students during the first 2 weeks in May, hold a parent orientation for the program, distribute books prior to the end of the school year, and help with data collection (for example, student surveys and summer reading logs) in their school. This study found evidence of a positive effect of participation in the program on standardised reading assessment.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

Teepe, R. C., Molenaar, I., Oostdam, R., Fukkink, R., & Verhoeven, L. (2019). Helping parents enhance vocabulary development in preschool children: Effects of a family literacy program. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 48, 226–236. – early childhood education and care

This paper presents findings from an experimental study using partially randomised clusters of 223 preschool children (the year before formal schooling), who were enrolled in a family literacy program. To increase the impact of family literacy programs, two ways to support parents in changing their interaction behaviour were examined: active learning during parent group meetings, and technology-enhanced learning with real-time interaction support. A third group, acting as the control, received the standard preschool program. Effects on receptive and productive vocabulary were investigated in children involved in preschool education programs. This study finds that:

  • children in the active learning condition group made larger receptive vocabulary gains than control children
  • children in the technology-enhanced learning condition group showed similar gains to the control group
  • children in all three conditions made similar gains in productive vocabulary.

Note: This study is included in Smith et al. (2021).

Tracey, L., Chambers, B., Bywater, T. and Elliott, L. (2016) SPOKES: Evaluation report and executive summary. London: Education Endowment Foundation. (open access) – primary

This report presents findings from the SPOKES program — a 10-week intervention for parents designed to help struggling readers in Year 1. The program teaches parents strategies to support their children's reading such as listening to children read, pausing to let them work out words, and praising them when they concentrate and problem-solve. This randomised control trial involved parents of 808 children from 68 primary schools, with children identified as struggling readers. This study finds that: 

  • there is no evidence that SPOKES has an effect on the standardised reading outcomes or the social and emotional outcomes of the participating children
  • follow up results suggest that SPOKES had a positive impact on some aspects of reading for boys over the longer term.

Note: This study is included in Axford et al. (2019).

York, B. N., Loeb, S., & Doss, C. (2019). One step at a time: The effects of an early literacy text-messaging program for parents of preschoolers. Journal of Human Resources, 54(3), 537–566. – early childhood education and care

This paper presents the findings from an evaluation of the READY4K! Program, which provides a text-messaging intervention for parents of pre-schoolers (the year before formal schooling) over a period of 8 months, targeting the behavioural barriers to engaged parenting. Parents in the treatment group received 3 READY4K! texts messages per week during the school year (starting in October and ending in May), with each week addressing a particular set of skills. This study finds that READY4K! increases parental involvement at home and school, leading to gains in children’s early literacy.

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