Google today joins the world in marking International Literacy Day (ILD) by upscaling the Read Along app, a speech-based reading app designed to help primary grade kids learn to read - anytime, anywhere.
Read Along, formerly known as Bolo, acts as a personal reading tutor for children. It uses speech-based technology to provide personalised assistance in a student’s reading journey, correcting them when they need help and encouraging them when they get it right. Students select stories to read from a growing app-based library and earn stars and badges when they read correctly. After an initial download, the app works offline, even on low-cost phones, making it more accessible and relieving worries of privacy and security.
According to Google, the Read Along app now includes improved features that make it easier for multilingual children to switch languages or get phonics support when they tap a word. The app also has more than 700 unique books across all nine languages, including Arabic, with a refreshing new look for the content library.
“Google is taking the education journey back to the basics by providing a digital platform that will make learning to read simpler and fun especially in the light of COVID-19 related school closures,” notes Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, Head of Brand & Reputation, Sub-Saharan Africa. “At Google, we believe technology can help children around the world learn how to read to help achieve the goal of basic universal literacy.”
Google will run a global story-a-thon from 8-30 September 2020 to encourage children to bring out their imagination through writing. Through participating, children stand a chance of getting published on the Read Along app. Parents can share stories written by their children during the month of September. Read Along will publish some of those submissions on the app.
UNESCO’s theme for International Literacy Day 2020 is Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Schools have remained closed due to COVID-19 restrictions and parents and teachers are increasingly turning online to find educational resources for children.
Since Read Along’s introduction, children have cumulatively spent more than 3 million hours on the app reading over 32 million stories. Google’s internal analysis, as well as feedback received from parents and children across the globe, is encouraging. Beginner readers register an improvement of between 38 per cent and 88 per cent in their oral reading skills after reading for 100 minutes on the app.