Multiple studies demonstrate the strong link between parental socio-economic background and children’s academic success. On average, children from households with a lower socio-economic status (SES) have poorer academic achievement, a lower likelihood of going to college, and inferior labor market outcomes throughout their adult life than have children from high-SES households. These adverse outcomes can be partially attributed to lower parental investments, both monetary and non-monetary, as the home learning environment and the resources available to support children’s development vary greatly by parental SES. Children from low-SES families receive less encouragement and smaller incentives to develop cognitive and non-cognitive skills (Cunha et al. 2006; Heckman & Masterov 2007; Law et al. 2018; Kalil et al. 2019).
In Germany, average literacy skills and their distribution differ significantly between children from low and high SES backgrounds (Gambaro et al. 2019). Likely, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these disparities, as school closures and the resulting disruptions in the educational process have had a particularly negative impact on the academic achievement of those children, whose learning conditions and support options at home were limited compared to their peers.
This project aims to promote out-of-school reading for fifth and sixth grade students from low SES households. Reading literacy is a prerequisite for knowledge acquisition and thus is crucial for the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. We draw on survey information of schoolchildren from low-income families – most of them dependent on social welfare – from the study “Corona & Du (CoDu)”. We sampled these families from the Social Security Records of the German Federal Employment Agency, namely the “Integrated Employment Biographies and the Unemployment Benefit II Recipient History.. We examine the extent to which a reading intervention can lead to improvements in reading literacy, academic performance, and higher educational acquisition of children living in low-income households. Therefore, promoting children’s reading literacy might improve their educational pathways as well as their future transition into the labor market, and thus should generate social and economic benefits for the children themselves as well as for society.