Impact Area:

Early Learning in the Home

Year of Investment and Stage:

2017 | Early Proof of Concept

Current Stage

Later Proof of Concept

Investment Amount:

<R500 000

Financial Instrument:


Have we reinvested:



Closed, Active

The Wordworks app supports parents, caregivers and educators of young children aged 0-5 years, by providing them with fun and creative ideas about how to talk, play, sing, write, count and share books with them on a daily basis. 

The Problem

A focus of South Africa’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) Policy is to provide quality information about how to support informal learning at home. However, access to parent support services is limited and there is a need for innovative programmes that support parents in their role as nurturing caregivers. Parents know that young children need food, shelter and health care, but many don’t realise that interacting with children through singing, talking, playing and reading is also essential for their development.

The Innovation

The free Wordworks app is available in English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans. Content is split into two modules: one relevant to birth-two years old, and the other for 3-5 years old. The app takes users on a fun journey and provides ideas about how to talk, play, sing and share books with babies and young children.

Users receive activity related messages from Monday to Thursday and an inspirational message on Fridays. The resource section contains short instructional videos as well as stories, rhymes and songs for young children. The app can be used by individuals, groups of parents, caregivers or preschool teachers. A tracking and sharing functionality allows users to see how they are progressing through the learning journey and to share activities or ideas with other users.
To address the cost of data, the app runs in offline mode after it has been downloaded, and there is no cost to access the content once it has been downloaded.

Why We Invested

In South Africa, quality culturally relevant content to support early learning is hard to come by. The content that does exist is often costly to disseminate. This investment presented the opportunity of working with a team who are known for developing quality early learning content and who have a strong and credible presence in the SA early years ecosystem. The use of mobile phones as a channel to market supported our quest for affordable, accessible and scalable solutions to support early learning.

The Project Team

The app was developed by The Reach Trust and Wordworks, using adapted content from the Every Word Counts programme. Every Word Counts was developed through funding from the Claude Leon Foundation, The Solon Foundation, the Frank Jackson Foundation and the Jim Joel Foundation.

The video content embedded in the app was sourced with permission from The Family Literacy Project, Mikhulu Trust, Bulungula Incubator and Rhodes University Community Engagement.