Children learn to read using Same Language Subtitles

One of READ Alliance’s sub-recipients, PlanetRead is working to improve the reading levels of children using Same Language Subtitling. The project addresses two established findings:

  • World over, children like to watch cartoons, and this is a well-known fact
  • Much less known is a well-researched conclusion that a viewer who watches video content with subtitles, will try to read along inescapably and automatically, assuming a passing familiarity with the text

Through this project, READ Alliance and PlanetRead aim to integrate Animated Books (AniBooks) into the schools and lives of children in Grades 1-4 (between the age of 6-10), to support the development of reading skills. Before deploying digital content across their priority Hindi states (Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh), they began a field test of these Anibooks with Grades 1 and 2 at a Government School in Pondicherry (Tamil Nadu).

The first session involved children (Grades 1 to 4) coloring animals that are part of their stories. The older children were asked to draw a river and all that they think exists around it.

Interesting observations from session 1

  • One little child from Grade 1 could not write at all. Her coloring skills were good. (Team came to know that she had lost both her parents and so far has been struggling to hold a pencil correctly. She does not write yet. However, she has made progress with the help of her teachers).
  • Some older children (Grades 3 and 4) wrote their names, class, and the date well. There were some others who were copying their names from the school ID card. Interestingly, there was one child who wrote a long word with the first and last letters matching his actual name, while the letters in between didn’t mean anything.

PlanetRead team conducted some testing activities (word search, rebus, choose the right sentence, pick the odd one out, categorize, complete the sentence (verb to be placed according to the subject) with the children to understand their levels of reading comprehension.

Shirley, a student of Grade 6 (Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pondicherry), watched the stories and understood them well. She could follow almost all the words in the story but needed help with activities that introduced new words (apart from the story) like the ‘bad and good qualities’.

Joanna, a little girl from Grade 3 (St. Joseph of Cluny), seemed to be a beginner in Hindi and could just about follow the stories thanks to the visuals. She needed repeated viewing to understand the story better. She couldn’t do the comprehension questions but was quick with picture exercises. Her letter and sound recognition was good so she could easily solve the ‘word search’ activity and enjoyed it.

Prachi, an eleven-year-old girl from the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education is not a student of Hindi. She is familiar with the script as she learns Sanskrit. She is exposed to Hindi so she can speak and understand the language quite well. She could do the activities well and faced small challenges doing word games like ‘word search’ as she was not so familiar with the format.

Overall, it was observed that the different age groups and backgrounds of the children mattered quite a lot for the time taken to do the activity. Using pen and paper, a little help and hints are needed, but digitally the children can master the same by playing the game multiple times.

The next session will include children watching movies and talking about it. Some new aspects of the story will be introduced through different media. For example, children will be shown a video of someone playing the flute and a real flute. Some images of rivers will be displayed. This will give them a clearer idea of some of the things they might not be familiar with. This session will also include an eye tracking exercise to pinpoint where the child’s gaze lands while watching a video.


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