How can parents best support their children’s language in the busy everyday life?
There are significant differences among children in their language development, and in Denmark these differences are already evident in kindergarten. Research results indicate that the differences have a significant impact on how well children perform throughout their schooling. In the TipsByText programme, we test whether weekly text messages with short tips can encourage parents to use a wider range of vocabulary in their everyday interactions with their children and thus to support early language development.
TipsByText is rooted in the notion that all parents want the best for their children. However, for parents of young children, everyday life is often very complex, and packed with a host of tasks to be completed. The basic idea underlying TipsByText is to make it easier for parents to support their children’s language development. Via three weekly text messages, parents of children aged three to five receive tips and short reminders about how they can easily stimulate their children’s language in entertaining and novel ways as a part of their everyday routines.
TipsByText was originally developed in the USA by Professor Susanna Loeb and her colleagues at Stanford University. The initiative has been shown to have positive impacts on children’s language development. We have adapted the programme for use in Denmark, working closely with Susanna Loeb herself, with Pia Thomsen (a Danish researcher and consultant in the field of child language), and with language consultants from selected municipalities. It has been a primary focus that the adaptation ensured that TipsByText is experienced as useful by parents of children in the age range three to five. The text messages are designed to be particularly relevant for parents whose children score below average on the Danish national language assessments. The aim of TipsByText is thus to support language development among young children, helping to ensure that all children get a good start to the lives ahead of them.
I talk more with him now. The text messages give me ideas for how I can talk with my child, and what we should talk with children about. Because we think differently – we’re adults, we don’t think about what something is called, about what colours are, or what numbers are, and about cars and lorries and that sort of thing. Those are things that don’t interest us – but they interest children. So now we talk about the bus, about the push-buttons in a bus and…”
/ Omar, father of a three-year-old boy
When I heard that you could get good advice and suggestions for play activities, I thought that it was a good idea that I get a little help, because I’m busy. For example, bath-time is fun now – for me too. And it means that I feel like a good mother, because I’ve done my job – but it feels like fun instead of a duty.”
/ Anna, mother of a five-year-old boy
In 2020 a large-scale impact evaluation trial with around 3,200 children spread across our five partner municipalities, Høje-Taastrup, Ikast-Brande, Langeland, Lejre and Middelfart, is taking place.
The study is designed as a randomised controlled trial, with a treatment group of around 1,600 children whose parents will be offered the opportunity to participate in the programme. This group will be compared with a control group, again comprising around 1,600 children, whose parents will not be invited to participate in the programme. The experimental design will produce solid knowledge about and evidence for whether TipsByText has the capacity to increase the level of children’s language development over and above the development that normally occurs over eight months. The evaluation is designed to make it possible to assess the impacts in both the short term and the long term, and for different groups of children.
We are using the language assessment tool named ‘Sprogvurdering 3-6’ produced for the Danish Ministry of Education, as a tool to measure the impact of the participating children’s language development. The data collection is taking place in both day-care institutions and schools with the help from Rambøll Management Consulting. Professor Marianne Simonsen of Aarhus University is be the person primarily responsible for the impact evaluation.
The TipsByText project has now entered the third phase in the RFI model. This means that in 2020 we have launched a large-scale trial and a research-based impact evaluation involving around 3,200 children across our five partner municipalities. We will investigate whether TipsByText has a positive impact on children’s language development and whether the intervention is cost-effective and scalable.
For more information, please contact Johanne Louise Elholm Bergmann, Project Lead, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.