A recent report in the New York Times descried a study that showed that low income children’s reading skills improved very significantly when parents were texted timely reminders about how to help their kids learn:
A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages.
According to the abstract:
We find that READY4K! [the tool tested] positively affected the extent to which parents engaged in home literacy activities with their children by 0.22 to 0.34 standard deviations, as well as parental involvement at school by 0.13 to 0.19 standard deviations. Increases in parental activity at home and school translated into student learning gains in some areas of early literacy, ranging from approximately 0.21 to 0.34 standard deviations.
While obviously one should be careful about over generalizing, this study got me thinking more about the possible value of courts offering to text and email clients not only with reminders about court appearances and obligations, but also with links to tools that can help them prepare or even fulfill obligations. For example:
- Videos of the judge before whom people are to appear, showing their personality and what they expect
- Lists of materials and evidence to bring to court, and tips on how to obtain and authenticate them.
- Reminders about child support obligations, and how to make and document payments
- Reminders about visitation times and conditions
- Reminders about due dates for court and for the filing of papers
- Links to document assembly programs to prepared required filings
The list is of course endless, and many of the possibilities apply just as much for a legal aid programs reminders to their clients, or an unbundled lawyer’s reminders to a client (caution that sending a reminder might impose additional obligations beyond the scope of the agreement.)
In any event, I remain confused about why so few courts make use of this simple and relatively cheap technology. Maye this is an LSC/SJI opportunity to create a standard system that could interface with the major case management software in both court and legal aid worlds. Obviously, such messages should be one of the products of any integrated portal.
If anyone knows why these systems were not deployed years ago, please let me know, and we can try to figure out how to get beyond the barriers. (I would hate the think that the reason is that the content is not yet developed — if so, maybe an initiative like this would push the development of the content.)