Detroit parents are paid to teach their kids to read


The Detroit Free Press reports on an experimental program designed to improve reading readiness in disadvantaged inner-city preschoolers. Parents are paid in cash for their involvement, to the tune of $10 per hour.Parents who participate in the program attend monthly lessons, in which they receive detailed instructions for daily work with their children in the areas of story comprehension, letter sounds, and number recognition. Each parent keeps meticulous records in order to receive $60 a month for working with the child 15 minutes a day, six days a week.

The mastermind and financier behind this pilot program is Dr. Charles Whitten, a retired distinguished professor and associate dean at Wayne State University's School of Medicine. Whitten started with two groups of Head Start students in January of this year, and provided the cash incentives and lessons to one group, but nothing to the other (control) group. According to the article, at the program's end in May,

The kids whose parents got the lessons -- and the cash -- performed better than the control group in four out of eight areas tested. There was no difference between the groups in three areas.

Next time around, Whitten wants to try the program out on kids who are not enrolled in Head Start, to see if he can replicate the results with children who may be even more ill-prepared to begin kindergarten.

Here's the whole story from the Detroit Free Press.


I'll teach them to read and do differential equations for ten bucks per kid per hour. Give me three or four of those little buggers and I'll make a OK living.

Paying you to teach your own kids to read, every few years I hear about a nonsense scheme like this. Why are we paying people to do what they should do out of love for their children.

When are we going to pay people not to beat their kids, not to burn them with cigs, not to spend the whole day drunk when they should be watching their children. If people are not going to be good parents we can't bribe them into being good parents.

I'm not cynical I'm just a realist. In fact I have a sign up in my office:
Don't confuse Pragmatism and Realism
Cynicism and Pessimism

But picture the impoverished inner city single mother. Maybe she does want to take the time to help her kids learn to read. She wants to help them out of love, as you say she should. However, she works full time at a minimum wage job. That's not enough to support her and the child, so she has to spend her evenings working a second job... but if she can still earn that necessary extra while doing something positive for her child's future, all the better! It's all too easy for the comfortably middle class (and yes, I am assuming that's what you are, but I think it's a reasonable assumption) to shake their heads in scorn at those who are struggling to make ends meet without any real thought about how hard it must be for them.

If they need to work a second minimum wage job to support their kids the cut in pay to $60/month will hurt them more than help.

Assuming they are making minimum wage of $10506/ year with one job they as a parent and minor child entitled to various government benefits that would allow them to continue to work yet have food on the table and a roof over their heads.

I'm not saying we should not help the poor, but I think this program is nonsense. Paying people to help their children learn to read is useless. If these same people would go to school to learn a trade so they don't have to work at a minimum wage job in place of that second job they would be infinitely better off in just a few months.

As the pressure to feed and shelter the family subsides as the parental income rises they will be more able to spend time with their children and be able to teach them to read without a $15 a week bribe.

The fact that I am a white man who has managed to save a few dollars has no bearing on this program. I am in fact in favor of helping people that are unable to help themselves. However in this country those people are few and far between. I have done most of my volunteer work in Latin America. In fact annually I spend a week at a clinic in Nebaj, Guatemala working with a medical/surgical team providing health care to Ixil and Guatemalan people.

Your inference that I am a spoiled middle class couch potato is not only wrong but insulting. I've been to Haiti in the last few months, and I've saved lives locally. While I've never known what it was like to be poor I certainly know that I have an obligation to share the gifts of time, talent, and good fortune with others who are not as fortunate. Just because I have an IRA does not make me deaf to the plight of the unfortunate. In fact, if I did not have a good income I would not be able to do much of the volunteer work I so enjoy. I've had one full time job and a part time job simultaneously for more than 14 years. I can afford to do what I wish, and helping people that truly need help is what I wish to do.

What have you done to make this a better world?

Paying people to parent their children is simply abhorrent to me.

I do have years of volunteerism and child sponsorship behind me, but I don't really feel the need to list off credentials to "prove" I care about people.

I am highly amused, however, that you think people can raise a child on one minimum wage job. I'll make sure to tell that to my struggling cousin who would find it completely impossible to do so without the family stepping in. When the government provides quality public day care for these kids, then it might be more doable. Until then it's pretty much impossible unless you have a lot of family support.

Oh, and I'm also amused that you can simultaneously talk about how irresponsible these parents are, not spending time with their kids... and then say that they should go back to school. Right, because they'd have so much free time to spend with their kids while struggling to work a job, pay tuition, go to class and study! Yes, maybe they would have more time when they're done... but time is precious with a toddler. If you go back to school while you have a one or two year old, by the time you get a 4 year degree, the kid's already off in school - too late for your new extra time to be spent helping them learn the essentials they need to know before starting school.

Also, this is not paying parents to parent their kids, it's paying them to do extra. Not all parents agree that they should teach their kids to read. In fact, for many decades of the 20th century, parents were actually discouraged from teaching their kids to read - that was the job of the schools. Teaching kids to read is wonderful and certainly I hope to teach my own kids to read someday, but I don't think that it's fair to lump it in with other parenting duties as though it's an inherent part of what it means to be a parent.

And here's another thing... you think the extra $60 won't make a difference. Well, what if they use it on books for the child? If they've just spent time learning about how important reading is for their kid, and just watched their child enjoy a book, I can see these parents spending that money on a book... the same parents who otherwise might not even think of buying a book for their kid. That would indeed be a difference.

Oh, yes you're completely correct. I will never again doubt that poor people deserve more of my money.

Why should anyone who had children when they were unprepared to support them turn to family for assistance, how crass of me to think people should rely on themselves and their family for support.

We all know that time is just too precious to spend the 8 months learning to weld, or 12 months for a LPN course, or 10 months learning auto body repair. God forbid that these people learn a trade so they can stop griping about how terrible it is to be poor.

Government provided day care that is what we need, and perhaps government provided Lincoln Town Cars to shuttle them back and forth, government provided food, government provieded shelter, government provided toilet rolls, please lets give these people everything.

Lets continue the cycle of poverty. Don't encourage the parents to better themselves, don't encourage the parents to be responsible parents, lets just give them money. What was the old UNCF commercial, they need a hand up not a hand out. Well I am more than delighted to give people a hand, to help them better themselves and their family, but hand outs don't do that they simply perpetuate the cycle.

For women who postpone pregnancy until they finish high school and marry the father of the child, there is very little poverty, regardless of race. Uncle Sam makes a very poor step-dad, but if $60 will help children learn to read, it may be one of the cheaper perks he has to offer. It sounds like this program is a back door way to teach parents who want to help their kids.

And comments like this are why I indicated that your history of volunteerism doesn't prove a thing to me about you caring about people. Yes, it would be better if people waited to have kids until they could support them. But guess what? This is not your picture-perfect little world. Things happen. Men who promise to stay around and help raise the kids leave, and moms are stuck with them. Teenaged girls make one stupid mistake for one evening. Do you really think an innocent child should have to suffer in poverty for years because of one mistake made by a confused 16 year old girl? We all make mistakes; some people just make mistakes with further-reaching consequences. I am continually amazed at the blinders that some people willingly don, refusing to see the world for what it is but instead advocating some kind of utopia where all lives work out according to plan. Accidental babies happen, and if the government isn't going to take care of them, the most needy of our society, then why do we even band together and have a government to help run our society?

We have a government to support their needs, we don't need to keep throwing money at these people. Of course I know that people have children before they are prepared to care for them, of course I wish they didn't.

However existing social programs are available to provide for these people, educate these people, and help them lead productive self sufficient lives. Two dollars a day is not going to do much to further these goals, an education will.

The program mentioned in the article is not a government program but some private study of head start children. In fact no conclusions should be drawn from the study because of its small sample size. The study is still ongoing and will include a more valid sample and controls. Until such time as the study is completed and valid conclusions can be drawn it must be remembered that correlation does not equal causation.

I'm sorry that you feel that I don't care about people. I thought everyone cared for the others with whom we share this planet. I guess some people can feel better by giving of their posessions -even if it is through taxation. Kahlil Gibran and I have a different point of view. So I'll just keep on doing what I do, and you can think me uncaring if you want. You can think I go through life with blinders on, you can think me a hard hearted conservative but I don't want the government taking care of babies. I want parents taking care of babies. If the parents can't I will.

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