April 28, 2023
One in 10 of the world’s children, a staggering 230 million, live in conflict-affected countries. Additionally, every year 175 million children globally are affected by natural disasters. These children are more likely to be out of school and lack access to educational materials. Teacher shortages are also more severe in countries affected by crises.
To address the need for solutions to increase access to education and literacy for children in crisis and emergency contexts, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) has funded a range of EdTech solutions to increase reading outcomes that can be implemented in or outside of school.
In 2016, ACR GCD funded the development of free, open source smartphone literacy learning games to support young readers in emergency contexts, including Feed the Monster and Antura and the Letters. Both were developed during the 2016 EduApp4Syria Prize, which sought the development of smartphone apps to build foundational literacy skills in Arabic and English and promoted the psychosocial wellbeing of refugee children in Syria. The app helps children learn to read in their native languages and discover foreign languages. Feed the Monster now has 617,000 users worldwide and is available in more than 50 languages. Antura and the Letters exceeded 300,000 downloads last year and is currently available in more than 10 languages. Both apps received major updates to support children affected by the war in Ukraine and can be applied in a range of contexts, from a parent’s cell phone to a tablet at a reading camp.
Online libraries also provide children with thousands of accessible digital reading materials that can be downloaded for on-the-go use. When schools are closed, these materials hosted on digital libraries allow children to read books in languages they use and understand at their own pace.
Throughout the life of this Grand Challenge for Development, ACR GCD and its innovators have supported the development of thousands of digital storybooks and several free online libraries. Global Digital Library offers over 6,000 early learning resources and storybooks available in more than 90 languages, including sign languages. Deaf World Around You, an ACR GCD-funded platform, hosts engaging sign language storybooks in local and national sign languages and teaches children to read through engaging stories. ACR GCD also supported enhancements to Bloom Library, which hosts more than 12,000 books in 525 languages. These books can be printed, read on a computer or enjoyed online through the free Bloom Reader app.
EdTech solutions like these can be easily accessed and adapted by educators and communities to expand access to reading materials in crisis contexts and improve learning outcomes for children. For example, in areas where there are no school libraries, a few tablets with EdTech solutions can form a lending library in emergency contexts. E-libraries provide personalized learning and build foundational literacy skills. Another option is to use smartphones and Pico Projectors in reading camps to increase access to learning and reading materials. Organizations can also share open source, digital learning materials via reading apps, such as those provided by eKitabu and Bloom. A 2020 study on mobile communication and refugees found that 68% of refugees living in urban centers had access to an internet-enabled phone, which provides an opportunity to reach this population digitally.
All children deserve access to high quality, accessible books. Global poverty could be halved within a generation if all adults completed secondary school. EdTech solutions get more books into the hands of children who need them and further this goal.
To explore the full range of solutions available for children affected by conflict or crisis, visit the Education in Emergencies page on our website.
By Jamie Brian. All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government.