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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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Summer book programs: One-year intervention, with additional support

Pre-K to 12 Education
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated June 2014.
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The summer book programs included in this analysis provide free books to elementary school students paired with additional reading support (e.g., lessons from certified teachers). Generally, the goal of summer book programs is to increase print exposure, the number of books at home, and voluntary reading time. Books are matched to each student’s reading level and area of interest and are mailed to students weekly over the summer break. The mailing includes a form for the student to complete after finishing the book. This analysis includes school-based programs only and does not include bookmobiles or public library programs. The studies included in this analysis measure the program’s impact after one summer.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $327 Benefits minus costs $1,295
Participants $770 Benefit to cost ratio $10.37
Others $406 Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($69) benefits greater than the costs 58%
Total benefits $1,433
Net program cost ($138)
Benefits minus cost $1,295

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
10 5 3340 0.010 0.026 10 0.007 0.029 17 0.021 0.419
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Test scores Labor market earnings associated with test scores $327 $770 $406 $0 $1,502
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($69) ($69)
Totals $327 $770 $406 ($69) $1,433
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $114 2013 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($138)
Comparison costs $0 2013 Cost range (+ or -) 10%
To calculate a per-student annual cost, we used average Washington State compensation costs (including benefits) for a K–8 teacher as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to account for class time and time to administer the program divided by the average number of students per classroom in Washington's prototypical schools formula. In addition to compensation, the estimate accounts for the cost of purchasing and shipping ten books to each student's home. The costs do not include parent time for involvement in reading instruction.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Guryan, J., Kim, J.S., & Quinn, D.M. (2014). Does reading during the summer build reading skills? Evidence from a randomized experiment in 463 classrooms (NBER Working Paper 20689). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Kim, J.S. (2006). Effects of a voluntary summer reading intervention on reading achievement: Results from a randomized field trial. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(4), 335-355.

Kim, J.S., & Guryan, J. (2010). The efficacy of a voluntary summer book reading intervention for low-income Latino children from language minority families. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(1), 20-31.

Kim, J.S., & White, T.G. (2008). Scaffolding voluntary summer reading for children in grades 3 to 5: An experimental study. Scientific Studies of Reading, 12(1), 1-23.

Pagan, S. (2010). Children reading for pleasure: Investigating predictors of reading achievement and the efficacy of a paired-reading intervention to foster children's literacy skills. (Doctoral dissertation, Carleton University, 2010, UMI No. NR70556).