Fostering the Language Skills of Children from Low-educated Families: An Ex-Ante Experimental Evaluation of a Parental Book Reading Intervention


Project Directors:

  • Carlo BARONE (Professor at Sciences Po/ OSC-LIEPP, Co-Director of the Educational Policies Research Group)
  • Denis FOUGERE (Research Director at CNRS, OSC-LIEPP)
  • Agnès van ZANTEN (Research Director at CNRS, OSC-LIEPP)

Associate researchers:


  • Académie de Paris (School district of the city of Paris)
  • Publishing houses: Gallimard Jeunesse, Turbulences Presse (2016-2017) and Nathan (2017-2018)

This project obtained funding from LIEPP through the 2016 and 2017 calls for proposals.


According to the 2011 PIRLS study on student literacy, French children in primary schools display low levels of reading skills. Moreover, socio-economic inequalities in reading skills are particularly strong in France. This project develops an intervention to foster the language skills of socially disadvantaged toddlers by encouraging their parents to read them storybooks. We assess the impact of this intervention using a randomized controlled trial.

The intervention: 

The project involves two rounds of experimentation (school years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018). In both years, the intervention involves children aged 4 attending the pre-primary schools of the 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements (city districts) of the city of Paris. We target the REP/REP+ schools, which display a high concentration of disadvantaged children.

The intervention comprises four main actions: a) each family receives one book per week; b) the parents receive a short phone-call which presents the intervention and motivates the beneficial effects of book reading for the children; c) parents receive a brochure every week for the first two months of the intervention with tips and suggestions for an effective and enjoyable reading; d) in the 3rd and 4th month some text messages are sent to each family as reminders of the main messages on the phone calls and brochures. Overall, this is an intensive, but low-cost and easy-to-scale intervention. The first year of the intervention lasted approximately 4 months, while the second year will last 6 months and will focus more on dialogic reading. 

Evaluation protocol:

Within each of the 45 schools involved in the project (N=1812), some classes are randomly assigned to the intervention, and the others are assigned to a waiting list for the next school year. We test the frequency of parental book reading and the vocabulary skills of children of the experimental and control group before and after the intervention. 

For more information about the parental reading projet.

Also, the parental reading project let to a randomized controlled trial in 24 nurseries in Italy. To learn more about the results of this experiment.

 Project Poster (June 2017)

Image of Language Skills poster

The research group recent events:


Publications of the Research Group:

  • Agnès VAN ZANTEN, Amelia LEGAVRE, Engineering access to higher education through higher education fairs LIEPP Working Paper, n° 22, April 2014
  • Nina GUYON, Elise HUILLERY, Choix d’orientation et origine sociale : mesurer et comprendre l’autocensure scolaire LIEPP Report décembre 2014
  • Agnès VAN ZANTEN, Alice OLIVIER, Les stratégies statutaires des établissements d’enseignement supérieur. Une étude des « journées portes ouvertes » , LIEPP Working Paper n°40, novembre 2015
  • Yann ALGAN, Elise HUILLERY, Nina GUYON, Comment lutter contre la violence et le harcèlement à l'école et au collège ? LIEPP Policy Brief n°19, juin 2015
  • Laura Perna, Improving Higher Education of All Students: Lessons from the United States , LIEPP Working Paper n°48, February 2016
  • Nina GUYON, Elise HUILLERY, Biased Aspirations and Social Inequality at School: Evidence from French Teenagers , LIEPP Working Paper, n°44, January 2016
  • Nina GUYON, Elise HUILLERY, Track choice and socioeconomic origin: measuring and explaining academic inhibition , LIEPP Policy Brief n°23, february 2016
  • Carlo BARONE, Antonio SCHIZZEROTTO, Giovanni Maria ABBIATI, Giulia ASSIRELLI, Gender, information barriers and fields of study choice: a field experiment , LIEPP Working Paper, n°63, January 2017
  • Olivier MONSO, Denis FOUGERE, Pauline GIVORD, Claudine PIRUS Les camarades influencent-ils la réussite et le parcours des élèves? Une revue de littérature sur les effets de pairs dans l'enseignement primaire et secondaire LIEPP Working Paper n°86, Avril 2019