Bolo: Google launches app to promote reading in rural India


Did you know that according to a 2018 report, only half of the students enrolled in grade 5 in rural India could confidently read a grade 2 level textbook? Technology company Google has launched a new app called ‘Bolo’ to bridge this gap.

‘Bolo’ aims to help primary school children in rural areas to read in Hindi and English. This app uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology.

How will this app promote reading?

The app features an animated character named ‘Diya’, who reads aloud stories in both languages. She also encourages children to read stories aloud and helps if the child is unable to pronounce a word. She rewards the reader on completion of the story. As children progress, they’ll be presented with word games that win them in-app badges to motivate them.

The app was tested in about 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh. According to Google, 64 percent of those children showed an improvement in their reading skills in a period of three months.

How does this app work?

The app will work offline. So users have to download the app once and can then have access to over 100 stories in Hindi and English. This is crucial as the Internet is not freely available in many parts of rural India. The app will be available on the Google Play Store in India for all smartphones running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and higher.

What about online safety?

According to Google, all personal information will always stay on the device to maintain children’s privacy. Users are not asked for details such as email ID and gender for logging into the app. Google recommends that children spend about 10-15 minutes on this app daily, thus limiting screen time.

Written by: Chandni Shah. Chandni is a picture book collector, an educator and founder of Simplifly, a learning venture for children.

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