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Summaries of RCT Grants

RCT of Bernie’s Book Bank, a free book-distribution intervention for high-poverty students, to be conducted in a large sample of Chicago-area elementary schools

This project is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Bernie’s Book Bank, which provides free high-quality books to low-income children on a large scale and at low cost throughout the Chicago area (serving approximately 250,000 students annually at approximately 50 cents per book).

Grant Recipient: Measured Decisions, Inc.  

Term: 2017 –2022

Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Borman, Ph.D., Measured Decisions, Inc.

Funding: $235,513

Summary: This project is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Bernie’s Book Bank, which provides free high-quality books to low-income children on a large scale and at low cost throughout the Chicago area (serving approximately 250,000 students annually at approximately 50 cents per book). Its elementary school intervention distributes 12 free books annually to all students in high-poverty schools; students are encouraged to trade books with their classmates to ensure that everyone brings home books they will enjoy.

Prior evidence suggests this intervention could produce sizable impacts on academic achievement. It shares some key features with Annual Summer Book Fairs, an intervention found in a large, well-conducted RCT in Florida to increase elementary school students’ reading achievement on the state test by about 35-40% of a grade level, three years after random assignment.

This RCT will randomly assign approximately 60 elementary schools to treatment or control groups, and track outcomes for approximately 4,700 1st-5th grade students over a period of three years. The study will assess effects on academic achievement as measured by state tests, as well as effects on related outcomes, such as literacy behaviors, to determine whether and how students and their families use the books.

The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.

Grants

Arnold Ventures funds projects to understand problems and identify policy solutions.

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