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Study Overview

The impact of a daily reading program (SSR - Sustained Silent Reading) in rural primary schools in Laos - a controlled, randomized study
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Our goal was to find out if a low-cost, simple daily reading program could improve reading skills in rural Lao primary schools. We used a randomized, controlled study of 40 schools in 3 districts. We conducted the evaluation ourselves. The baseline tests alone turned out to be more valuable than we had expected; we found that reading levels are lower than we had been told; and we identified one particular obstacle that children face as they learn to read Lao.

Registration Citation:

Alyson, S., 2015. The impact of a daily reading program (SSR -  Sustained Silent Reading) in rural primary schools in Laos - a controlled, randomized study. Registry for International Development for Impact Evaluations (RIDIE). Available at: 10.23846/ridie063

Additional Keywords:
Sustained Silent Reading, literacy, reading, primary school, daily reading
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Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Sasha Alyson
Big Brother Mouse
Name of Second PI:

Intervention Overview


Many children in rural Laos have no concept that reading could be fun; they’ve seen textbooks, but never a book they were eager to read. So to launch the program, we get child excited about books. A team of four young Lao people holds a half-day “book party” at the school. They read aloud from a storybook, teach songs about books and reading, and play games. They explain the reading program. At the end, every child gets to select a book of their own. Then we gave a set of 50 to 70 books to each classroom so children can read the book of their choice for 10-15 minutes each day. The cost to us was about $400 per school to set up the program; this does not include monitoring or evaluations. Schools did not pay.

Theory of Change:
Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Big Brother Mouse
Type of Organization:
NGO (local)/Community Based Organization/Other civil society organization

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Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
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Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
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Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

With district officials, we selected 40 rural primary schools from 3 districts in 3 provinces which have a total of about 150 schools. We chose representative schools but because of travel difficulties, in several clusters rather than randomly spread. We randomly divided them into 3 groups. Group A got the reading program, and occasional monitoring (a workshop in January, phone calls or a follow-up visit when possible). Group B got the reading program, but no monitoring. Group C, the control group, did not get the program. In each of the five grades (1-5) we used two tests to measure reading levels, for a total of 10 tests; details are in our PDF report. We used a variety of approaches including large flash cards, multiple choice questions, and reading aloud. We tested all students in all 40 schools in Sept.-Oct. 2013, and again 7 months later, then compared how much the average scores improved in each group, compared to the baseline, over that period. Schools got the same tests. We also collected other data, including percentage of minority students who did not speak Lao at home; presence of a preschool; and how many students passed and failed in the previous year.

Outcomes (Endpoints):

Primary outcome: To measure the literacy improvement rate. Secondary outcomes: We collected information that could be analyzed to look for correlations, such as the significance of speaking a minority language at home. We've not yet tried to analyze this thoroughly.

Unit of Analysis:
schools; and grade levels within schools

Sustained Silent Reading, in which students select a book they want to read, and read for enjoyment for about 15 minutes each day, is a simple and inexpensive way to improve reading skills, in a developing country where these skills are weak.

Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Number of Clusters in Sample:
40 schools
Number of Individuals in Sample:
4200 students
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
135 (14 schools in group A and 13 in group B, 5 grades each) for treatment; 65 (13 schools, 5 grades) as control

Supplementary Files

Other Documents:
This describes our process (similar to the Dec. 2013 PDF); and also gives results.: Big Brother Mouse - SSR Evaluations June 2014 LONG report with results.pdf

Outcomes Data

Reading-related tests of various sorts given to student at each grade level, 1 to 5. We did not try to analyze at a level of test types; we used several types so that when put together, they would give the best possible picture of reading levels. We used the individual scores to calculate a score for each grade level, in each group (groups A, B, and control group.)
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Not restricted - access with no requirements or minimal requirements (e.g. web registration)
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Treatment Assignment Data

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Data Analysis

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Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Non-Prospective, Category 4: Data for measuring impacts have been obtained/collected by the research team and analysis for this evaluation has started

Completion Overview

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Preliminary Report:
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Description of Changes:

Study Stopped