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 maternal education.
We conducted a randomised controlled trial on book-sharing with the University of Reading and Stellenbosch University in Khayelitsha, South Africa, in 2014/15. The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, has been cited widely and it has led the World Health Organisation to endorse the programme.
The study had four important findings –
Book-sharing was of significant benefit to children’s attention span, language development, and social understanding;
After the book-sharing programme, parents were more sensitive and more responsive to their child's interests, communication and feelings;
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.
These findings are extremely important for preparing children better for school, reducing educational disadvantage and inequality, and for reducing the risk for later aggression and violence.
Arising from this work, there are now six further studies underway in Southern Africa and across the world on the effects of our programme.
VIDEO: 8-minute presentation of the research on our programme.