Promoting Mother-Infant Book Sharing and Infant Attention and Language Development in an Impoverished South African Population: A Pilot Study

Peter J. Cooper, Zahir Vally, Hallam Cooper, Theo Radford, Arthur Sharples, Mark Tomlinson, Lynne Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The low rates of child literacy in South Africa are cause for considerable concern. Research from the developed world shows that parental sharing of picture books with infants and young children is beneficial for child language and cognitive development, as well as literacy skills. We conducted a pilot study to examine whether such benefits might extend to an impoverished community in South Africa, by evaluating the impact of training mothers in book sharing with their 14-18 month old infants. Seventeen mothers received book sharing training; and 13 mothers did not, but instead received a comparison training in toy play. We assessed the mothers' behavior during both book sharing and toy play before and after training, and we also assessed infant attention and language. Mothers receiving book sharing training engaged well with it, and they also benefited from it; thus, compared to the comparison group mothers, they became more sensitive, more facilitating, and more elaborative with their infants during book sharing, and they also became more sensitive to their infants during toy play. In addition, infants whose mothers received the book sharing training showed greater benefits than the comparison group infants in both their attention and language. Training in book sharing for families living in conditions of marked socio-economic adversity in South Africa has the potential to be of considerable benefit to child developmental progress. A large scale controlled trial is required to confirm this.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-152
Number of pages10
JournalEarly Childhood Education Journal
Volume42
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Book sharing
  • Early literacy
  • Infant attention
  • Language development
  • Maternal sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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