A Story Grows in Rural Uganda

November 20, 2019

Valeda F. Dent, Ph.D.
Dean, University Librarian, and Professor, University Libraries 

My colleague and husband Geoff Goodman, Ph.D., and I have been collaborating on research projects in rural Uganda since 2009, and prior to that, I conducted research on the history, development, and growth of rural village libraries in Uganda starting in 2004. Our main focus is to empirically demonstrate the impact of rural community library-based programs and services on the communities they serve. Lately, our efforts have focused on preschool children. 

In 2014, after many years of working closely with these rural communities, Dr. Goodman and I began exploring the idea of implementing an early childhood play-based literacy intervention based in a rural library. We recognized that these rural libraries might play a significant role in preparing these children for first grade (a concept known as school or learning readiness). Our goal was to empirically measure the impact of a library-based intervention known as the Storytelling/Story-Acting (STSA) protocol over time.

This study was initially funded by the Fulbright Commission in 2014, and as of June 2019, continues to be privately funded and operates out of the Kabubbu Community Library in rural Uganda. In the end, our goal is to work with rural community libraries all over Uganda and elsewhere so that they can implement this high-impact, low-cost school readiness activity, perhaps increasing the chances that young children who participate will advance successfully from kindergarten to first grade.

Our research has also allowed us to take students from the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at Long Island University (where Dr. Goodman is a faculty member) to conduct field research. Two of these students have completed dissertations related to this work, and we are proud of their contributions to this area of scholarship.

We look forward to expanding our work in this area to other countries and continuing to find small but impactful ways to support school readiness in the developing world. More information on our Rural Village Libraries Research Network can be found at www.rurallibrariesresearchnetwork.net/.