We, the Global Book Alliance (GBA) and the Government of Norway through Norad, have in just 8 weeks developed the “Free Learning” cross-platform search to facilitate access to quality early grade reading resources on a global scale. 

With the global spread of COVID-19 during the first part of 2020, and the resulting dramatic increase in the number of children not attending school, it is particularly important to rapidly ensure continuity around children’s acquisition and practice of reading skills. We also believe that the cross-platform search will provide long-term value as a comprehensive source of curated reading content in the languages children use and understand.

About the reading resources and the content curation process

At its launch in beta, the platform includes over 11,000 resources in 150 languages. There are plans to cover more than 250 languages by the end of 2020, with an emphasis on languages of high relevance for users in low- and middle income countries. How many reading resources and what types of resources there are per language depends on the availability of quality assured content from the selected providers (see below), and will vary,

 In order to make the search useful to parents, teachers and other users, the main bulk of the content is levelled from 1-5 according to text complexity. The cross-platform search also has an “emergent reader” level that includes literacy learning games and books with little or no text per page, as well as resources meant to be read aloud for children. Kenyan and Cambodian sign-languages will be added to the language list within the first couple of weeks after launch, and more content for people with disabilities will be added to the search over the next months.

The content includes early grade reading materials approved by governments for classroom use, as well as other high quality supplementary reading materials. The search makes it easy to search according to levels, language, topics and keywords. 

The curation process has involved an assessment of technical aspects and the quality assurance protocols of well-known providers of openly licensed early grade reading books and games. Based on this assessment, a selection of the available content from the following providers has been included, or will shortly be included, in the cross-platform search:

  • All content from the Global Digital Library (GDL). The GDL is a GBA flagship initiative managed by the Government of Norway through Norad.
  • Content from the BookDash-platform.
  • From the Storyweaver platform, all books published by Pratham and books that have been read 50 times or more.
  • From the Africa Storybook platform, all books that the platform lists as Africa Storybook-approved.
  • Interactive radio and audio early grade reading content developed through projects funded by USAID and UK Aid.
  • Two mobile literacy learning games that won the Norwegian-funded EduApp4Syria competition: Antura and the Letters and Feed the Monster.
  • More than 45 language versions of the Feed the Monster-game from the non-profit Curious Learning.

What “launch in beta” means 

We have fast-tracked the development of the cross-platform search in order to help address an acute need for curated reading resources. We also expect to evolve the user interface further as we receive broader feedback. We have therefore made a conscious decision to go live with the cross-platform search as early as possible, while we sort out some remaining technical issues and continue evolving both the search functionalities and the content pool. Below are some issues to be aware of:

  • While we have resources in 150 languages, and will expand the number of languages rapidly, the platform itself (with descriptions of levels and categories etc.) is only available in English at least for the time being.
  • We have a curation process that addresses content quality per reading resource, but we are still working to fix elements that need correction as part of the content import itself.
  • The naming of languages is based on information received from the content providers. There is uncertainty as to the correct naming of some of the languages and some languages may currently be listed more than once.
  • As we are importing a large number of languages from different sources, we are working to implement fonts across these languages. Errors might occur in the process.
  • We have included “Emergent readers” as a level before level 1, to describe resources supporting acquisition of the most foundational literacy skills. The description and content for this level may evolve over the next few weeks based on further user testing and feedback.

If you have feedback or discover errors, please use the reporting template below to help us improve Free Learning.

The Global Book Alliance is working to help ensure that responses to the crisis today help to build resilience and access to reading material in the future. Free Learning is part of the Alliance’s commitment to ensuring access to supplementary early grade reading resources at a global scale. 

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