Investing in Reading Resources to Improve Literacy Skills for Children in Cambodia

Statement for International Literacy Day, 2016 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Literacy is a fundamental human right as well as a foundation for life-long learning and the on-going development of human capital. To coincide with International Literacy Day, World Vision has released a new survey report that examines the Reading Environments and Habits of Students in Grades 4 to 6. The report findings show strong links between family support and literacy skills of children. It provides a strong evidence base for the message that parents and caregivers understand the value of reading and creating supportive and resource rich environments for their children to read at home. The survey reveals that school libraries that meet the Government’s “Standards for Primary School Library” also contribute to improve reading habits of students.

For the survey, World Vision interviewed 507 students (261 female, 246 male) from grades 4 to 6 in 39 schools across 9 provinces of Cambodia where WV is operational. The survey expanded on traditional literacy research by focussing on reading habits, experiences and preferences of students, and sought evidence for which environmental factors might influence child reading habits.

In relation to the home environment, the survey found that almost all students (94%) had family member ‘often encourage’ them to read when they were young, and 74% said family ‘often read stories or books aloud’ to them. Reading to children at a young age, and encouraging them to read while young, results in students reading more often and enjoying reading more. However, these positive experiences were often hindered by a lack of diversity of reading materials available at home – many students reported that they only had textbooks and storybooks at home, and thus had limited access to additional reading materials that they were interested in reading.

Because so few homes have varied reading resources, school libraries become critically important. The survey found a correlation between the number of books a student reads and whether their school has a library or not; students who attend a school with a library read more books through the year.

In 2011 the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) adopted “Standards for Primary School Library” in order to develop greater quality and effectiveness of library facilities for learning and teaching at primary school level. However, many libraries are struggling to meet the government’s standards, especially in terms of number of trained librarians and number and type of books available for children to read. Approximately half of students interviewed spend ten minutes or less in the libraryeach time they visit, and almost half of them do not borrow books for fear of losing or damaging them. Improving the implementation of MoEYS standards is likely to increase the use of libraries.

A high percentage of students reported that teachers support them to learn the sounds of letters and words, and also read books other than textbooks aloud to them. This shows that it is not only access to school buildings and classrooms that fosters learning, but it is also skilled teachers who create a supportive and enabling learning environment.

To improve children’s literacy, it is important that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport ensure schools’ compliance with government’s library standards, and ensure that Sub-national structures are regularly monitoring library services, and providing support for schools to meet the MoEYS standards.

World Vision’s survey shows that students benefit when they are encouraged to read and spend time in the library (including borrowing of more reading materials to read outside of school). This requires leadership from School Directors, Teachers and the School Support Committee who have authority to increase library usage at school, and also can encourage parents and caregivers to improve the literacy environment of their children at home, by reading with their children, and purchasing more reading materials other than textbooks for children to read at home.

Good reading practice is essential for consolidating literacy skills and enabling children to move from ‘learning to read’ (learning the skills for reading) to ‘reading to learn’ (reading for the purpose of increasing knowledge).


World Vision will use the survey findings to improve its own education projects, but the report is also available to the public.​​World Vision hopes that this report, unique in Cambodia, will contribute to learning and reflection from Government and other education stakeholders about how to best support child literacy in Cambodia. 


For Complete Survey Report, please visit:


For media inquiries, please contact:

Phearun Kuch, Media Officer, World Vision
Tel: +855 17 563 520 or Email: