As part of its Keep Children Reading initiative, nonprofit organization, Worldreader, with headquarters in San Francisco and programming in East and West Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and North Africa, and South Asia, is supporting students across the Global South with digital reading while schools are closed.
According to UNESCO , as of 23 March 2020, 1.2 billion learners across 124 countries have been affected by school disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s nearly 73% of all enrolled learners worldwide.
School closures can result in significant learning loss for students. In response to this global health crisis, UNESCO is supporting the implementation of large-scale distance learning programmes and recommending open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely.
“When considering how to mitigate learning loss in a pandemic, it should be a top priority to address supporting reading skills and engagement with books, bridging the gap until schools are in session again,” said Rebecca Chandler Leege, Worldreader’s Chief Impact Officer.
For pre-primary learners, continuity in literacy acquisition is especially important. For primary students, the availability of books is essential as reading is a foundational skill that supports the acquisition of knowledge across all other subject areas. Reading with children can also help address psychosocial stress during times of crisis.
Digital reading is an important tool for parents and caregivers. When schools are closed, routines are disrupted, and friends and family may be ill – children will inevitably feel stressed. For young children, reading stories together can provide a chance for bonding with parents or caregivers. And the right books can also provide context for what children are feeling, providing opportunities to process stressful circumstances. Older children will appreciate the opportunity to visit worlds beyond their own while their own worlds are limited by social distancing.
For youth, reading can also support literacy skills, 21st Century Skills, work preparedness, self-help, and health education. Even in low-resource communities, basic phones can provide access to books.
Of the approximately 7 billion people on Earth, more than 6 billion have access to mobile phones. Reading on phones can be done on- or offline.
Worldreader offers two free solutions for students available on mobile phones. For young and primary-aged children, BookSmart gives parents, caregivers, and primary students themselves access to a library, so they can continue learning while physical schools are out of session. BookSmart starts with a free base collection – 75+ great local and international books suitable for young readers and their parents available via the Google Play Store or web browser. The light app, optimized for all connection speeds, keeps data costs low. And, books can be saved for offline reading for those with limited data.
For older students and young adults, Worldreader offers the free Worldreader reading app , available via the Google Play Store or web browser. It features hundreds of books for learning and pleasure, in categories including Learn, Health, and Career. As with BookSmart, books can be saved for later, limiting data use and saving costs. Over 100,000 people already read from it each month, with new readers joining each day.
Digital solutions are key to keeping children reading while schools are out of session. With BookSmart and the Worldreader app, parents, primary students, and youth can maintain reading skills, learn new subjects, and alleviate stress during this pandemic.