October 5, 2022
October 5 marks World Teachers’ Day, and All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) is paying tribute to teachers and highlighting resources to increase literacy for children in low resource contexts.
World Teachers’ Day commemorates the adoption of the 1996 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which set the standards for the rights and responsibilities of teachers. This year’s theme is “the transformation of education begins with teachers.” Today, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate teachers who are transforming education and reflect on the support they need to have the greatest impact in the classroom.
There has never been a greater need for the time and talents of teachers and educators. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO reported that 387 million children of primary school age were estimated to lack basic reading skills, and more than one-half of all children globally were not expected to achieve minimum proficiency levels in reading by the time they completed primary education. The pandemic led to even greater educational challenges. According to the UN, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schooling is a “generational catastrophe,” increasing the number of children lacking basic reading skills worldwide to 584 million.
ACR GCD believes that education in the 21st century must leverage innovation and technology to help children learn to read, complete school and escape poverty. Below is a sample of the resources available for teachers to help build students’ literacy skills and improve their reading outcomes, especially in low-resource contexts:
- Free digital, downloadable and printable storybooks. EdTech reading and learning materials are available for free online and can be adapted to suit the needs of individual classrooms. ACR GCD has funded the development of digital materials housed on online libraries like Global Digital Library (GDL, a web-based platform for e-books available in more than 90 languages), Bloom (an online library with accessible features for children that also provides free book creation software ) and Let’s Read Asia (a web-based reading platform with a diverse range of topics, from science to folk tales). These reading materials and storybooks on these online platforms are inclusive and available in languages that children use and understand, including sign languages.
- Resources to support psychosocial well-being and social emotional learning. In addition to improving learning outcomes, EdTech can positively impact a child’s emotional and psychological well-being. For example, the literacy apps Feed the Monster and Antura and the Letters increased the psychological well-being of Syrian refugee children. Books can also be a tool for inclusion and gender equality. Children are more likely to engage with reading when they have access to characters who look, talk and live like them. For more inclusive titles for your classroom, check out a collection of 100 STEM books created by ACR GRD awardee Asafeer Education Technologies during the No Lost Generation Tech Summit Prize, which included Grace in Space, a story about a girl with disabilities who journeys to the stars.
- Resources to increase access for children with disabilities. Accessible reading materials with features like audio, eBraille and sign language ensure that children with disabilities can have equal learning opportunities. The World Around You platform, created through the Sign on for Literacy Prize, is an online library of digital sign language books that can be downloaded on smartphones or tablets for offline use. For educators who use Orbit readers (a refreshable braille display), Benetech’s human narrated stories on Bookshare are a low-cost, grade-level storybook solution for children who are blind or have low vision. Online libraries like the GDL and Bloom also offer accessible books, including storybooks in national and local sign languages and with narration.
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL) resources. UDL is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning based on scientific insights into how humans learn, making education more inclusive for everyone. Ultimately, the goal of UDL is to support learners to become experts in their own learning — learners who have agency in their learning— and who each, in their own way, are purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal driven. They know what they need to do their learning. Learn how you can use UDL to help children read and its role in ensuring access to inclusive education for all.
Also, we encourage teachers to consider thinking beyond the one-to-one child-to-device paradigm in classrooms or learning spaces. For example, using digital, open source and accessible teaching and learning materials on smartphones connected to PICO projectors or using large tablets for group reading can turn any environment into a learning environment, complementing printed books, when they are available, and extending access to reading materials especially for children who use underserved languages and children with disabilities. In contexts with no functioning community or school libraries, an e-library with collections of as few as five tablets that can be lent out to or used by children in community centers, reading camps and child friendly spaces. This type of lending library is attractive to children, provides personalized learning and ICT skills acquisition. Both of the above strategies not only increase impact and usage but also address barriers to using digital learning materials and books.
Be part of the solution!
If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty.
We invite you to join us in our mission of building a strong literacy foundation for children so they can be successful in school and in life. Explore ACR GCD solutions and tools, ranging from free book creation software to digital learning games, apps and libraries to book tracking and data collection solutions. Partner with ACR GCD to pilot or scale a solution or innovation in your community or region. Interested in learning about the latest ideas in EdTech? Sign up for the ACR GCD newsletter to get the latest news on ideas, innovations and opportunities in EdTech.
By Jamie Brian, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government