Google has launched a new reading app called “Read Along” for elementary school students, and it uses the technology of speech recognition and text-to-speech to help children learn to read or to improve their reading skills.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, schools had to be shut down for an uncertain period, and that has affected the students of all age groups across the globe.
The learning process of elementary school kids has especially been adversely affected, and there is a major concern amongst parents about the delay it will cause in the learning and development of these kids.
Last year, Google had launched the same app with the name called “Bolo” in India, which helps children improve their reading skills. Read Along is an upgraded version of Bolo.
Now, Read Along will help children remain educationally engaged amid the coronavirus pandemic, and will keep them occupied while giving them an interesting means to spend quality time at home and still keep learning.
There is a built-in reading assistant named Diya, who gives feedback when children work through various reading prompts and games in the application. When children read aloud, Diya helps them with difficult words, passages, pronunciations, and meanings while encouraging them to go on and not to quit. Through mini-word puzzles and games, Diya helps children with the approach of positive reinforcement in the form of in-app prizes as their skills improve.
Google has made this app very child friendly. The voice data is analyzed in real-time only, and it is not sent on Google’s servers. The app is fully functional without Wi-Fi or data connectivity, so it is easy for kids to use it in all circumstances, whether they have access to the internet or not. Google also claims that this app does not use voice samples from kids to make it appear better.
There are no in-app ads or purchases, so there is no need for parents to worry about these issues also. They can download additional stories free of cost by directly connecting to the internet. The app already has a catalog of 500 stories, and it is continuously going to expand with new stories and books.
It is freely available on Google Play for children aged 5 and above.
Bolo was launched in India with English and Hindi as the primary languages, but now Read Along supports more than nine languages and has an enhanced library, added features and improved user interface with new games.
With all these changes, Google is hopeful to receive a lot of positive feedback from parents in all the 180 countries where this app is available, especially during these already distressing times where everyone is going through a rough phase.
But Read Along is not currently available in the Philippines, Columbia, and Denmark. It is not certain when it will launch in these countries too.
Apart from this app, Google has been striving to make continued online education for students as easy and as smooth as possible. It has extended free access to some of the advanced features in Google Meet, G Suite, and G Suite for Education till September 30th, 2020.
Google has also donated 4000 Chromebooks to the rural students of California, along with launching resource pages for teachers and parents to educate children using Google products during these unprecedented times.