New Study Shows E-readers Help Children Learn to Read
November 24, 2014 By Sarah Jaffe & Zev Lowe
For the last two years, we’ve been running a rigorous study called iREAD 2, examining the impact of Worldreader’s e-reader program on students in Ghana. Today, we are excited to announce the final results of that study.
Literacy is a foundational skill that sets up children for lifelong success. Unfortunately, few children in sub-Saharan Africa have access to even the most basic tools they need to learn to read, including books and reading materials. The iREAD Ghana Study 2012-2014 (iREAD 2) addressed the lack of reading materials and low levels of literacy among Ghana’s early primary school students by providing e-readers filled with hundreds of pieces of relevant content, phonics and literacy instruction for teachers, and extracurricular reading activities. iREAD 2 was designed based on our learnings from iREAD 1, which showed that e-readers work best when combined with other curricular support and activities.
The project’s evaluation showed the following outcomes:
Students with the Worldreader intervention could read better:
Worldreader students started off reading an average 17 words per minute in Twi (their mother tongue), and by the end of the intervention could read an average of 34 words per minute. In English, students could read 17 words per minute at the start of the program and just over 41 by the end. Gaining 15 – 20 words per minute makes a big difference when it comes to early grade reading, as the image below shows (where the blue text represents the gains in words per minute).
They could understand more of what they were reading:
In both Twi and English, students in the treatment group more than doubled their reading comprehension scores. Students went from answering 20.0% of Twi questions correctly at the baseline to 43.0% correct at the final, and from 16.6% to 43.5% on English comprehension questions.
The lowest performing students reaped significant benefits from the Worldreader intervention:
The proportion of treatment students who could not read a single word in Twi decreased dramatically from 64.6% to 8.9%.
For the sake of comparison, the gains of students in the Worldreader program were measured against a control group, which did not receive the e-readers or other intervention components. The learnings presented in the report not only point to the efficacy of the e-reader intervention for improving early grade literacy skills and increasing access to books, but also provide insights towards a way forward that will allow Worldreader and partners to reach more students, in more corners of Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa, with cost-effective and impactful digital reading programs.
Worldreader would like to thank World Vision, USAID, and AusAID, who generously provided the funding for iREAD2 through an All Children Reading grant. Baseline and midterm reports for iREAD 2, as well as reports from our other studies, are posted on our Learnings Page.