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01.12.2017 | Study protocol | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Trials 1/2017

The Benefits of Early Book Sharing (BEBS) for child cognitive and socio-emotional development in South Africa: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Trials > Ausgabe 1/2017
Nicholas Dowdall, Peter J. Cooper, Mark Tomlinson, Sarah Skeen, Frances Gardner, Lynne Murray
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s13063-017-1790-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Children in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are at risk for problems in their cognitive, social and behavioural development. Factors such as a lack of cognitive stimulation, harsh parenting practices, and severe and persistent aggression in early childhood are central to the genesis of these problems. Interventions that target the intersection between early childhood development, parenting, and early violence prevention are required in order to meaningfully address these problems.


We are conducting a randomised controlled trial to evaluate a parenting intervention for caregivers of children aged between 23 and 27 months, designed to promote child cognitive and socioemotional development in Khayelitsha, a low-income peri-urban township in South Africa. Families are randomly allocated to a book-sharing intervention group or to a wait-list control group. In the intervention, we train caregivers in supportive book-sharing with young children. Training is carried out in small groups over a period of 8 weeks. Data are collected at baseline, post intervention and at 6 months post intervention. In addition to targeting child cognitive development, the intervention aims to improve child socioemotional functioning.


The Benefits of Early Book Sharing (BEBS) trial aims to evaluate the impact of an early parenting intervention on several key risk factors for the development of violence, including aspects of parenting and child cognition, prosocial behaviour, aggression, and socioemotional functioning. The study is being carried out in a LMIC where violence constitutes a major social and health burden. Since the intervention is brief and, with modest levels of training, readily deliverable in LMIC contexts, a demonstration that it is of benefit to both child cognitive and socioemotional development would be of significance.

Trial registration

The BEBS trial is registered on the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number database, registration number ISRCTN71109104. Registered on 9 February 2016. This is version 1 of the protocol for the BEBS trial.
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