International Literacy Day: Google releases improved 'Read Along' app

Google commemorated International Literacy Day (ILD) 2020 by releasing an improved and upscaled Read Along app. It's a speech-based reading app designed to help primary school children learn to read – anytime, anywhere.

"Technology will never replace great teachers, but in the hands of great teachers, it is transformational".George Couros

International Literacy Day (ILD) 2020

Origins and 2020 theme

The day is observed annually on 8 September, as declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation on 26 October 1966 at 14th session of UNESCO's General Conference.

The day was officially established the following year; it promotes the importance of literacy as it relates to human rights, and moving towards a literate and sustainable society.

The theme for 2020 is Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

How to participate in International Literacy Day

Why should International Literacy Day matter to you? Consider that approximately 773 million adults and young people worldwide lack back literacy skills. More than 3.7 billion people have no internet access.

Unfortunately, schools were closed down in more than 190 countries worldwide due to COVID-19-related lockdowns. That means the education of 1.27 billion children and youth was interrupted.

There are several ways to actively participate in International Literacy Day, such as:

  1. Donating to local literacy charities

  2. Participating by joining a book club[*]Volunteering at a nearby library through promoting reading and writing

Google's improved 'Read Along' app

Formerly known as  Bolo, Read Along "acts as a personal reading tutor for children" by using speech-based technology to assist a student and correct them when they need help.

Students can choose stories to read from a growing app-based library. Once downloaded, the app works offline, even on low-cost phones, making it more accessible and relieving concerns around privacy and security.

Multilingual children will also find it easier with the improved Rea Along app to switch languages or get phonics support. The app now has more than 700 unique books cross nine international languages.

'Technology can help children'

Mich Atagana, Google's South Africa head of communications and public affairs, explains that "Google is taking the education journey back to basics by providing a digital platform that will make learning to read simpler and fun".

"At Google, we believe technology can help children around the world learn how to read to help achieve the goal of basic universal literacy".

Since Read Along's introduction, children have cumulatively spent more than 3 million hours on the app reading over 32 million stories.

This month, Google will also be running Story-A-Thon until 30 September to encourage children to stimulate their imaginations through writing.

Read Along will publish some of those submissions on the app, and will also be sharing a handbook for educators (even those in the most low-tech classrooms) with ideas to help them leverage Read Along in their lesson plans. 

Also read – World Book Day: Five South African women driving literacy change

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