Using Mobile Phones to Encourage Reading

Baby holding phone

A young woman watches as her baby sister plays with her phone that has free books in Hindi and English available through a mobile application.

Recent research shows that the first three years of a child’s life greatly impact their lifelong skills acquisition and development. Just as access to healthcare and good nutrition results in a child’s healthy growth and development, the number of words a child hears in their early years has been linked to improved learning, literacy, and language development. Even before a child attends school, parents can make an incredible impact on their children’s educational future just by talking and reading aloud. Researchers have discovered that by the age of three, children from poorer households hear 30 million fewer words than children from families with higher income. Hearing language while having an in-person interaction has shown to help build neural connections that create a foundation for a child’s lifelong learning and development. Every parent wants the best for their child; however, many low income parents who work long hours or multiple jobs struggle to find extra time or resources to devote to reading aloud to their children.

Grandmother reading

The CKS team interviewed this grandmother in her shop to learn more about how she spends time with her young grandchildren.

The CKS Consulting team has undertaken an exciting new project for Worldreader that aims to make it easier for parents in India to read to their young children, thus increasing the number of words children will hear in their early years. By providing free books through a mobile application, parents who are short on time and money will have a library available at their fingertips. Over the past three months, the team has been working to learn more about the best ways to support and encourage parents to use this mobile application to read to their 0 to 6 year old children. By talking with parents, caregivers, and teachers, our team is learning about the reading behaviors of parents, attitudes about education and reading, and how low incomes families are using mobile technology in their daily lives.

So far, the conversations the team has had with interview respondents have resulted in really interesting feedback about how lack of time, money, and internet can be major barriers to reading at home. Additionally, there is not always a distinction between activities like reading, storytelling, and studying. However, the team is mapping key strategies to mitigate these barriers and preferences. The data collected during this research will be used to strengthen an implementation strategy for Worldreader’s partners on the ground to ensure that the mobile application reaches the right audience.

Father with children

A father and his two young children flip through storybooks during an interview with the CKS team.

Our research utilizes CKS’s user-centered approach by incorporating creative and participatory activities, such as the story cards our team developed, to understand the needs and interests of the parents and children this project will benefit. Over the coming months, our team will continue conducting one-on-one interviews, focus group discussions, and usability sessions with parents, caregivers, and teachers in Delhi. Follow along on the blog as we post photos of our field research while we talk more with families to learn how mobile phones can help encourage more reading in households, and ultimately, provide parents with an accessible way to prepare their children for a lifelong of development, learning, and academic success.

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