Google today launched Read Along, an Android app that uses AI and machine learning to make it easier for children to learn to read by providing verbal and visual feedback. After its first debut in India, it is now available in over 180 countries and in nine languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
Preliminary research suggests that apps like Read Along could significantly improve children’s reading ability. A three-month pilot test of the predecessor of Read Along – Bolo – in the Indian district of Unnao with 1,500 children in 200 villages showed that 39% of the users of the app achieved the highest level of the annual report on educational status (ASER) reading assessment test and compared to a control group 64% saw an increase in scores. In addition, 92% of parents said they saw an improvement in their child̵
Read Along comes preloaded with around 500 stories and interactive games that children earn stars and badges for as they learn, practice, and progress. An in-app assistant named Diya demonstrates how to pronounce words and sentences and uses natural language processing to determine whether a student is having difficulty or reading a passage successfully, giving them positive and reinforcing feedback.
In Read Along, parents can create profiles for multiple readers who tap their photo to learn at their pace and track their individual progress. The app personalizes children’s experiences by recommending the difficulty of stories and games based on their reading performance.
Zohair Hyder, technical director of Read Along, notes that the app contains no ads or in-app purchases and works without WiFi or data. Parents only need to connect it to the internet to download additional stories.
“Reading is … easy to start and requires no login. Even the voice data is analyzed in real time on the device – so that it works offline – and not sent to Google servers,” said Hyder. “Read Along will continue to improve as we receive family feedback, expand the selection of books, and add more features.”
The start of Read Along follows that of told children’s stories in Google Assistant. Last April, Google Tell Me a Story, a smart speaker feature from Google Home, brought the stories of popular franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Blaze, and the monster machines to Android and iOS devices in the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia reads aloud. and India. In a similar development, Google developed a read-along app together with Disney and Penguin Random House in October 2018, which combines the latter’s Little Golden Books series with music and ambient noise.