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Group Submission Type: Paper Session
New estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicate that, more than 617 million children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. Among this 617 million, 387 million children are of primary school age (about 6 to 11 years old). The new data signal a tremendous waste of human potential that could threaten progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (UNESCO 2017). The ability to read is at the heart of self-education and lifelong learning and it is a skill capable of transforming life and society (Adenyinka Samson 2007). The development of literate societies remains the central challenge to ensuring literacy skills can be developed and sustained, as the availability of reading books in schools and communities in low-middle income countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America remains very limited. Children need exposure to a wide variety of appropriate reading materials starting in their early years, to gain the necessary foundational language and literacy for content learning that will support their future employability and productivity. As noted by Shrestha and Krolak (2015), “...it is not enough to simply teach the population how to read if there is actually nothing relevant to be read and furthermore no motivation or demand for them to use and practice their literacy skills.”
To address the theme for the CIES 2019 conference, “Education for Sustainability,” the Global Reading Network (GRN) in partnership with the Global Book Alliance (GBA) and All Children Reading: Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) have organized a panel to examine one element that is needed if nations are to produce citizens of the world with the education to contribute to sustainable development. Digital libraries offer a great opportunity to close both the book gap and reading achievement gap. They contribute to expanding access to books by children regardless of time or place. The books can be read on personal computers, portable book readers, a smart phone or in print. In addition, with digital libraries it is easy to create new editions since the libraries offer features for translating or modifying existing editions.
The proposed panel session will discuss how digital platforms harnesses technology and organizes communities and education stakeholders to contribute new content, translate and share content among local and regional languages quickly and cost effectively. The panel will highlight these platforms’ collaborations with government agencies (Ministry of Education curriculum centers) and other implementers for the purpose of maximizing accessibility and use of content available on the platforms to support reading programs. Three organisations implementing digital libraries and two organisations making books accessible to children through funding, technical assistance and advocacy will present for the panel.
The Global Book Alliance (GBA) will present an overview of its efforts to make books accessible to children. GBA is working to transform the supply of reading materials so that the quality books are accessible, available, and appropriate for children at the right time and at a reasonable cost to schools and communities. The GBA will highlight its work with digital platforms to promote widespread dissemination of content. It will introduce the Global Digital Library which is making digitized books available globally in multiple languages.
In the second presentation, the All Children Reading Grand Challenge for Development will highlight its partnership role with some of the digital platforms and provide an illustrative example of how one could contribute to content. This organisation has been funding technology-based innovations aimed for improving early grade reading outcomes in developing countries including digital libraries that offer free digital and print-ready books for young readers.
The Asia Foundation/Books for Asia will demonstrate how it uses on-the-ground partnerships to localize their digital library and catalyze reading in schools and homes. The presentation will highlight collaborations with different stakeholders such as universities, INGOs, and MoEs to maximize access and use of more books by children, including how it utilizes social media to provide encouragement to parents along with direct links to e-books that parents can read with their children at home.
The fourth presentation by Global Digital Library will discuss its digital platform’s efforts to increase the availability of high-quality reading resources in underserved languages worldwide including provision of decodable and leveled books in several languages, books for reading for leisure and interactive resources such as reading games. The presentation will share strategies the organization uses to obtain content from different sources and challenges experienced in sourcing the content for its platform.
Pratham’s Storyweaver project will highlight its efforts to empower educators across the world to use, adapt and create local language books for their classroom needs. The organisation has over 9000 leveled storybooks in 120 languages that range from early readers, STEM storybooks, to audio visual books. Educators around the world are using this content in digital and print formats to foster reading skills among children in low resource environments. As one of the largest publishers of open source supplementary reading materials for children, the organisation will share its model for producing, customising and disseminating content at low cost by leveraging technology and collaborative frameworks.
Making Books Accessible to All Children by 2023 - Linda Hiebert, US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Sourcing Innovative Solutions that Drive the Creation and Usage of Early Grade Reading Materials for All Children - Michelle Oetman, World Vision
The Last Mile: Making Sure Digital Libraries Deliver on their Potential - Morgan Belveal, The Asia Foundation
Providing Access to Free, High-Quality, Early Grade Reading Resources in Languages that Children Use and Understand - Christer Gunderson, Global Digital Library
Empowering Educators to Use, Adapt and Create Local Language Reading Materials for Children - Suzanne Singh, Pratham Books