Narrowing the Gap in Children’s Literacy Skills: The Children and Parents Engaged in Reading (CAPER) Project

Last registered on August 06, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Narrowing the Gap in Children’s Literacy Skills: The Children and Parents Engaged in Reading (CAPER) Project
Initial registration date
January 03, 2020
Last updated
August 06, 2021, 1:50 PM EDT


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Primary Investigator

The University of Chicago

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
The University of Chicago
PI Affiliation
The University of Chicago

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Research shows that reading to children promotes their cognitive development. However, parents disadvantaged by low income and low education are less likely than more advantaged parents to read to their children even though they report having books and time to read and believe that reading to their children will improve their child's life chances.

Children and Parents Engaged in Reading (CAPER) is a 6-month reading intervention that uses behavioral tools to increase the amount of time parents spend reading to their pre-school aged children, with the aim of improving children's literacy skills.

CAPER study builds on the Parents and Children Together (PACT) study (Mayer, Kalil, Oreopoulos, and Gallegos 2018), which demonstrated the ability of behavioral tools to double the amount of time that disadvantaged parents read to their preschool-aged children (effect size = 1.0 standard deviations) over a six-week intervention period. CAPER is designed to answer the following questions:

1. Can a reading intervention that incorporates behavioral tools build new reading habits in parents to such a degree that it meaningfully improves child-level outcomes?
2. Which behavioral tool is the most effective at motivating parents to read to their child and driving child-level outcomes?
3. How do the effects of behavioral tools on child outcomes vary by parent demographics?
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Kalil, Ariel, Susan Mayer and Michelle Park Michelini. 2021. "Narrowing the Gap in Children’s Literacy Skills: The Children and Parents Engaged in Reading (CAPER) Project." AEA RCT Registry. August 06.
Experimental Details


The CAPER project is a six-month experimental intervention developed for parents with children to increase parental engagement and children’s reading skills. The study is conducted in two rounds, with the first round starting in Fall 2019 and second round in Fall 2020.

Chicago-area parents with children ages three to four who are currently enrolled in subsidized preschool programs will be randomly assigned to either the control group or one of three treatment groups. The first treatment group will be lent a digital tablet preloaded with a BIP Lab-designed reading app. This app hosts over 100 children books in English and Spanish and records the reading sessions. The second group also receives the digital tablet with the reading app and in addition receives several text messages a week with reminders about reading to their children. The third group also receives a tablet with the app and in addition will be asked to set a goal for how much time they will spend reading with their child each week and at the end of the week they will get a text message telling them how much they actually read to their child. The control group receives neither a tablet nor behaviorally informed text messages.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-P)

Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Parental attitudes and beliefs on reading engagement with children.

Time or number of minutes using the reading app (for treatment groups with digital tablets).
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
The study includes administration of parent surveys and measures of demographic characteristics, parents’ beliefs and attitudes about literacy and reading to their children including expected return of reading to their children, measures of environmental factors that may limit or enhance the use of the reading app, and questions about the use of the digital library and parents’ response to the behavioral tools.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Eligible participants include primary caregivers whose primary language was either English or Spanish, who are willing to receive text messages, who have an age eligible child enrolled at one of our participating subsidized preschool centers in the Chicago area. Participants were randomized to either of the three treatment or control groups. In some preschool centers an opt-out recruitment strategy was used, thus eligible parents in these centers were enrolled, unless they opted-out of project participation.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Within-classroom randomization. In terms of method, we completed randomization in our office by computer.
Randomization Unit
Our unit of randomization are parent-child dyads.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Our treatment was not clustered, but randomized within preschool centers.
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,400 parent-child dyads.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
350 parent-child dyads in each of the four research arms.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Our minimum detectable effect size for the main Intention-to-Treat effect on literacy test scores (with no covariates) was designed to be 0.20 at the .05 level of statistical significance and with an 80 percent chance of deriving statistically significant impacts assuming a two-sided test of the null hypothesis.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Social and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board (SBS-IRB) at the University of Chicago.
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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