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Paying Parents to Read to Their Children Boosts Literacy Skills

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers have found a surprising way to help boost the skills of children with language impairment: Pay their parents to read to them.  A new study tested four techniques to get parents or other caregivers to complete a 15-week literacy intervention for their children with language impairment.  Only one of those techniques – paying parents 50 cents for each reading session – led to children showing significant gains in reading test scores, findings showed.  “We were somewhat stunned to find that paying parents had this strong effect. We didn’t anticipate this,” said Laura Justice, lead author of the study and professor of educational psychology at The Ohio State University.  The other three techniques tried in the study were offering positive feedback to the parents, offering encouragement, and modeling to parents how to read in a way that improved children’s literacy skills.  None of these three was helpful, and offering feedback actually had a slight…

The Most Remarkable Thing About the Pope’s Visit

Addressing a crowd of 50,000 gathered outside of the U.S. Capitol, Pope Francis made his usual request to the crowd: “Pray for me.” What he said next, though, was truly remarkable. “And if there are among you any who do not believe, or cannot pray, I ask you please to send good wishes my way.”
When he mentioned nonbelievers, I was sure he was going to say next that he hoped nonbelievers would be inspired—that they would reconsider. But he didn’t—he simply asked those who do not believe to wish him well. Even the most cynical agnostic can see the beauty in that.
Though still wedded to Catholic doctrine, Pope Francis has become known as a modern Pope. In an individualistic culture that encourages people to be who they are and not just what their society asks them to be, that means being inclusive. “Who am I to judge?” he has said of Catholic gays and lesbians. He’s said that the church doesn’t need to be talking about the “same issues” of homosexuality and abortion all the time.
But this most recent statement of inclusivity is the most stunning and the most modern yet. Pope Francis is including not just religious believers who have done things or lived their lives in ways the church has historically condemned. He is now including—or at least reaching out to—those who don’t believe at all.
It’s a sign of how tuned in he is to the reality of the modern world. The Pope began his speech by blessing the children, and in the U.S. those children are increasingly growing up without religion. In our analysis of four large studies of adolescents (link is external), my co-authors and I found that 1 out of 5 high school students never attends religious services, up from 1 out of 10 in the early 1980s. Teens have less respect for religious institutions, are less likely to want to donate to religious organizations, and are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives. Young adults are even more disconnected, with a third not affiliating with religion. The Millennials—whom I call Generation Me (link is external)—are the least religious generation in American history.
In 2009, President Obama was the first President to mention “nonbelievers” in an inaugural address. But politicians have to be inclusive—they want votes, and nonbelievers are an increasing number of American voters. The Pope has no such mandate.
Jean M Twenge Ph.D.
The Pope’s words speak to his incredible generosity and inclusivity. But they also point toward the decline of religion’s influence. If the trends continue, future Popes might be out of a job.

Jean M Twenge Ph.D

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