Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, many children read below grade level. Causes include overcrowded classrooms, poor teacher training, and little family support for student learning. Often, though, the problem begins before children even enter primary school: Many students aren’t ready for school and can’t read a single syllable when they enter first grade. Policy makers are therefore looking for ways to increase school readiness and promote pre-literacy skills to ensure that all children have the foundation they need to succeed in the classroom.
Research area: Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health
Evaluation Sample: 38 rural villages
Timeline: 2015 - 2019
Intervention: Pre-literacy promotion, free children’s books
Researchers: Lia Fernald, University of California at Berkeley; Pamela Jakiela, University of Maryland; Owen Ozier, World Bank
Kenya is one of the best-educated low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and yet many primary school students read below grade level and seven out of ten students in third grade, for example, cannot read at a second grade level. In poor rural areas, teacher quality is particularly low and the problem is compounded by the fact that many children begin primary school unprepared and with minimal pre-reading skills. In rural parts of western Kenya for example, 84 percent of children under five years old live in homes that do not have a single children’s book. Researchers are evaluating a low-cost program that produces and distributes children’s storybooks to households with children between ages two and six, to increase school readiness.