Google’s Read Along taps AI to improve kids’ reading skills
Google today launched Read Along, an Android app that taps speech recognition tech to help children learn by providing verbal and visual feedback. After launching first launching in India, it’s now available in over 180 countries and in nine languages including English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindi.
Preliminary research suggests that apps like Read Along could measurably improve children’s reading skills. A three-month pilot of Read Along in the Unnao district of India involving 1,500 children found that, compared with a control group, 39% of Read Along users reached the highest level of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) reading assessment test. Moreover, 64% saw an increase in scores and 92% of parents said they noticed some improvement in their child’s skills.
Read Along comes preloaded with stories and interactive games within those stories, for which kids earn stars and badges as they learn. An in-app assistant named Diya, uses text-to-speech and natural language processing to detect whether a student’s struggling or successfully reading a passage, and it gives them positive and reinforcing feedback along the way, Additionally, Diya can help pronounces words or sentences upon request.
Within Read Along, parents can create profiles for multiple readers, who tap on their photo to learn at their pace and to track their individual progress. The app personalizes the experience by recommending the right difficulty level of stories and games based on their reading level performance.
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Read Along engineering lead Zohair Hyder notes that the app has no ads or in-app purchases and that it works without Wi-Fi or data. Parents need only connect it to the internet to download additional stories.
“Read Along is … easy to start and doesn’t require sign in. Even the voice data is analyzed in real time on the device — so that it works offline — and is not sent to any Google servers,” added Hyder. “Read Along will continue to improve as we receive feedback from families, expanding the selection of books and adding more features.”