Geoff King

Lively Minds

Geoff King

Lively Minds


“Geoff is a behavioural insight, research and communication expert. Before joining Lively Minds in January 2019 he worked at ComRes, Wunderman Thompson Commerce, and – behaviour change specialists – Brook Lyndhurst, as well as doing freelance and academic research/consultancy work.

He has previously spoken at conferences including World Association for Sustainable Development and Behave. ”

Play: Fast Forward. Using play to develop emergent literacy skills in pre-school children in rural Ghana and Uganda

Emergent literacy in pre-school children in rural Ghana and Uganda is developed through Play Schemes run by mothers in communities. Despite most mothers in the community being illiterate, the Lively Minds programme provides training for mothers to run Play Schemes which use low-cost, locally available resources to build school readiness – including emergent literacy skills – through playing games.

“How do you teach pre-school children foundational literacy if there are no books and their parents cannot read?

How can pre-school children access early care and education opportunities when there are no nurseries or play materials, and parents don’t have the resources to provide them?

These are challenges faced in many rural communities across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Lively Minds have co-created a programme, with local governments in Ghana and Uganda, to overcome these challenges. Using a cascade training model, the programme increases the school readiness of pre-school children by training Mothers to run educational Play Schemes in the community. Early childhood development practices in the home are also encouraged through monthly Parenting Workshops.

This is all done at low-cost by working with community systems and using only locally available materials. The cost of running the programme is less than $20 per child, and this figure is decreasing as the programme scales up.

Building literacy skills remains a challenge though, with illiterate Mothers teaching at the Play Scheme and a number of local languages used across the communities.

Lively Minds are pioneering various games that develop emergent literacy skills despite these challenges. Games involving objects, pictures and shapes builds crucial pattern recognition, language and communication capabilities, and picture books are used to build familiarity with the format. Building this path to literacy increases school readiness, performance at school, and – ultimately – life chances.

Lively Minds are constantly innovating and are open to ideas. We very much hope that attending this conference will inspire new ideas for trial and testing in communities ‚Äì giving pre-school children the chance to build fundamental reading and writing skills before attending school, and giving them the best start in life. “