In 2020, homes became classrooms, parents became teachers and learning became…much more complicated. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the world scrambling to align with an ambiguous new normal. The effects on global education systems especially, have been devastating. Last March, in an attempt to “flatten the curve” and keep students and educators safe, educational institutions around the world began closing their doors. By April 1st, there were 193 country-wide school closures among 4 different continents 1 . As one school year transitioned into the next, many of these doors did not reopen. School closures have redefined the way we lead, communicate, educate and learn. Seeing as hundreds of millions of learners have been affected this year, one thing is certain. As the world reacts to thecrisis of COVID-19, a global learning crisis is unfolding. Fortunately, good news is on the horizon. Efforts are being made to bring resources and hope to millions of learners.
Years before this virus made remote education essential, Worldreader took a deep interest in how digital learning could improve the lives of students in underserved communities across the Global South. As the leading digital reading specialist, Worldreader works with partners to increase literacy rates and access to books in primarily low- and middle-income countries. As remote learning is enacted worldwide, the need to mitigate learning loss in the Global South is greater than ever.
Keep Children Reading Initiative and Other Responses
In response to the pandemic, Worldreader sprung to action and continues to deliver resources to vulnerable communities. Firstly, Worldreader launched an exciting new initiative called Keep Children Reading (KCR) to sustain reading and comprehension, critical skills for transitioning back to school, during this global health crisis. Although the transition from in-person to virtual instruction is tough for many students, learners in underserved communities in the Global South lack the support of reliable internet connection, home computers or personal laptops. Luckily, mobile phones are increasingly affordable and prevalent, even in low- and middle-income countries. Over 6 billion of the world’s population of 7 billion have access to mobile phones. The KCR initiative taps into this insight and is using wide mobile phone penetration to reach and aid learners all around the world. Using BookSmart for children and Worldreader Web App for older children and adults, Worldreader is delivering thousands of free books to readers in to encourage continued learning from home. These apps are all available even on low-cost feature phones, widening the reach of the materials dramatically. It allows for a more level playing field in which more students have the resources they need to succeed. This August, Worldreader has partnered with India’s leading digital service company, Reliance Jio, to further their mission of mitigating the effects of this learning crisis. On very low-cost Jio phones, over 150 million vulnerable households in India can now access Worldreader’s extensive library. Affordable devices are key in getting the Worldreader library to communities who need it most.
Benefits of Reading
Why the emphasis on reading over other subjects? Reading allows for success in continued education, increased language development and a higher earning potential. Readers are proven to lead healthier, happier and more stress-free lives. It is truly the foundation of a prosperous education and reaps higher success in other subjects. For early readers especially, continuous literacy acquisition is crucial. Now that many schools are not in session and in person learning is limited, it is more important than ever for learners to be accessing these resources on their own. KCR supplies them with these resources. A key feature of the KCR initiative is its dedication to bringing relevant reading material to learners. Readers are more engaged with books when they are reflective of the world and communities they live in. The life-changing effect that a relatable story can have on the trajectory of one’s life, can not be overstated. This is why Worldreader is inclusive of topics that are relevant and matter most to its readers. During the pandemic, Worldreader has even added books about COVID-19 to its library.
It is unknown what the future will look like for learners and educators alike amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But the ability of Worldreader’s digital library to offer literacy resources, support remote curriculums and encourage the continuity of reading is a huge step in the right direction.