Increasing Family and Community Engagement to Foster a Habit of Reading

Books are a critical element to building literacy. However, there is a relative lack of evidence on the most effective behavioral interventions to increase book use outside and inside the classroom environment. R4D is leading a rapid feedback study to explore and test interventions related to family and community engagement in book use in Senegal.

The Challenge

The provision of reading materials is critical for learning to read and building literacy. However, book provision alone does not equate with usage. Recent studies, including Results for Development’s feasibility study for the Global Book Alliance, found that inside the classroom, teachers are often unware of how to appropriately use books. It is equally important for children to be encouraged to read outside the classroom environment, as this allows for greater practice and helps foster a habit in reading. Unfortunately, parents and community members often do not meaningfully engage to support children’s reading for a mix of reasons, including a lack of access to books, their own low levels of education, and a limited perception of the value of reading.

The Opportunity

The Global Book Alliance seeks to transform book development, procurement and distribution to ensure that no child is without books. It is an international effort involving multiple stakeholders, including USAID. “Lecture Pour Tous”, USAID/Senegal’s early grade reading program implemented by Chemonics includes a focus on improving parent and community engagement in early grade reading.

Rapid Feedback Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (RF MERL) is a rigorous, yet flexible approach for generating timely and useful data for programs in the early stages of implementation. The RF MERL Consortium, led by R4D, is conducting a one-year rapid feedback study to support “Lecture Pour Tous” by exploring and testing interventions to increase parent and community engagement in book use to strengthen early grade learning. This study will be carried out in close collaboration with USAID/Senegal and the Global Book Alliance and will generate evidence on how communities and families can best play a role in fostering a habit of reading.

Our Work

The RF MERL Consortium, led by R4D, will study the following research questions:

  1. To what extent do parents, family members, and community leaders outside the school setting encourage a habit of reading?
  2. What factors inhibit or increase the use of books in communities, homes, and families?
  3. Who are the key influencers inside and outside the school that affect to what extent reading is fostered?
  4. When books are used in communities, homes, and families served by “Lecture Pour Tous,” how are they used and under what conditions?
  5. What community-level approaches or tactics are impactful in encouraging the effective use of books?

The use of books in classrooms will also be explored, and questions to be studied include:

  1. What is the current status of the use of reading books in classrooms served by “Lecture Pour Tous?”
  2. What factors inhibit or increase the use of books in classrooms?
  3. When books are used by classrooms, how are they used and under what conditions are they used?

The RF MERL Consortium will use a mixed methods approach, and will collect and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data. There will be multiple opportunities where findings will be shared to inform both “Lecture Pour Tous” programming and ongoing GBA activities. For example, the team will facilitate “learning checks”, where all partners come together to reflect on the findings, brainstorm ways to refine implementation, and iterate accordingly.

This study is one of several pilots R4D is carrying out in partnership with the Rapid Feedback MERL Consortium as part of the USAID Global Development Lab’s MERLIN program. 

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