We conducted a randomised controlled trial on book-sharing with the University of Reading and Stellenbosch University in Khayelitsha, South Africa, in 2014/15.
For almost a decade we have been at the forefront of research on book-sharing in low- and middle-income countries. Our work has demonstrated, under the most rigorous evaluation conditions, that families can use book-sharing to bring about dramatic benefits to their children’s language, cognition, and socio-emotional development – irrespective of social disadvantages, such as family poverty and a low level of parental education.
The study had four important findings:
Book-sharing was of significant benefit to children’s attention span, language development, and social understanding
Families experienced these benefits irrespective of their level of poverty or education
By the end of the book-sharing programme, the gap between the worst- and best-performing children at the start of the programme had narrowed considerably or vanished entirely
After the book-sharing programme, parents were more sensitive and more responsive to their child’s interests, communication and feelings
These findings are extremely important for preparing children better for starting school, reducing educational disadvantage and inequality, and, possibly, for reducing the risk for later aggression and violence. Arising from this work, there are now several further studies underway in Southern Africa and across the world on the effects of our programme.