Learning to read forms the foundation of literacy and can unlock many opportunities in life. However there are challenges in this becoming a reality: according to the annual ASER 2018 report, of all students enrolled in grade 5 in rural India only about half of them can confidently read a grade 2 level textbook. Today, on the occasion of International Literacy Day, we want to reiterate our focus on the universal development of foundational literacy skills. The National Mission for Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) further emphasizes the urgency of achieving this goal.
At Google, we deeply believe that technology can help kids around the world learn to read. In 2018, we released Bolo, an AI-enabled Android app to help kids improve reading skills. We have seen positive feedback from parents and educators across the country. Rakesh, a committed volunteer from a small village in Rajasthan, heard about the app from our partner NGO Kaivalya Education Foundation (a Piramal Foundation Initiative). He now uses it to help his students practice reading, and believes the app will go a long way to have lasting effects on his community. Bolo is now available as Read Along in over 180 countries and 10 languages.
Positive impact on reading outcomes and ecosystem recommendations
Rakesh’s story is similar to the encouraging feedback we’ve received from many other parents and children. To date, over 7 million students have cumulatively read more than 32 million stories on the app. We’re also seeing a positive impact of Read Along on children’s reading abilities. Our internal analysis shows that after reading 100 mins on the app, beginner readers (those who read at a speed of less than 45 correct words per minute) see an improvement from 38 percent to 88 percent in their oral reading fluency.
In an assessment conducted by an independent partner comprising over 3,500 students in three languages and across five states in India, 40 percent more students who used Read Along saw an improvement of one or more reading levels as compared to students not using the app.
Through our experience and on the ground partnerships we have also collated some key learnings relevant to anyone trying to leverage technology in the space of improving early age literacy
- Achieving Scale: Integrating technology solution in existing NGO/Government led programs enables impact at scale.
- Supporting parents/guardians: A strong orientation program for parents/guardians is critical to enable device access and learning support for children
- Supporting educators: Technologies like Read Along can be easily integrated in lesson plans to make reading fun even in low tech classrooms.
New features and books to improve the reading experience
While we’re both humbled and excited by these results, our work doesn’t stop here. Starting today, Read Along:
- Has more than 700 unique books across all languages, with a refreshing new look for the content library
- Features improvements that make it easier for multilingual kids to switch languages or get phonics support when they tap a word
We are working on features to aid comprehension and give educators the ability to create student reading groups and track progress. We are also making Read Along more accessible in the landscape mode.
Celebrate the joy of reading by taking part in our Story-A-Thon
This International Literacy Day, we invite parents to continue to read to their kids -- both with and without Read Along -- and share stories written by their children. Read Along will publish few stories on open source platforms like Global Digital Library and Pratham Storyweaver.
Through our partnership with the Uttar Pradesh Basic Education Department on Mission Prerna and NGOs like CSF, KEF, Pratham, Saajha and more, we have been able to reach students who need support. As India embarks upon the NEP 2020 led FLN mission, we are committed to working with individuals, schools, corporate partners, NGOs and governments to help every child achieve their full potential.