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By 8 September 2020 | Categories: news

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Google today joins the world in marking International Literacy Day (ILD) by upscaling Read Along, a speech-based reading app designed to help primary school children 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 concerns around privacy and security.

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 nine international languages (including Spanish, Portugese and Hindi) as well as a refreshed new look for the content library. 

“Google is taking the education journey back to 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 Mich Atagana, Google’s South Africa head of communications and public affairs. “At Google, we believe technology can help children around the world learn how to read to help achieve the goal of basic universal literacy.”

Starting today, Google is also running a global Story-A-Thon until 30 September 2020 to encourage children to stimulate their imaginations through writing. By participating, children stand a chance of being published on the Read Along app. Parents can share stories written by their children during the month of September. 

UNESCO’s theme for International Literacy Day 2020 is Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Schools closures and schedule changes due to COVID-19 restrictions have sent parents and teachers online to find educational resources for children. 

Since Read Along’s introduction, children have cumulatively spent more than three 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% and 88% in their oral reading skills after reading for 100 minutes on the app. 

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