September 10, 2012

USAID Presents Awards for Innovations to Promote Literacy

Thirty-two groups representing 16 countries were nominated for innovation grants Sept. 7 by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with the funds to be invested in programs that increase literacy.

Selected from a field of 450 submissions, the awards are part of “All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development,” a multiyear partnership launched in November 2011 to find and fund innovative solutions for literacy and catalyze global action around the issue.

Among the winning solutions:

  • A data collection system that will enable teachers in the Philippines to submit reading performance results immediately to a Department of Education database via mobile phones.
  • A partnership with the Zambian government and other stakeholders to deploy a low-cost, digital platform of reading materials in seven local languages.
  • Inclusion of same-language subtitling in the wildly popular Bollywood film songs to help audiences in India, particularly women and children, learn to read.

An estimated 32 million children will be impacted by these initiatives once they are implemented and scaled up with assistance from USAID and its Grand Challenges partners, World Vision and the Australian Agency for International Development. The partners have committed more than $20 million for this challenge to promote childhood literacy around the world.

DAI is supporting implementation of “All Children Reading” as well as the newest Grand Challenge, “Powering Agriculture,” and helped coordinate USAID’s support for the four days of literacy activities held in Washington, D.C. The event culminated with the “Development XChange,” where all 32 groups set up demonstration booths at USAID headquarters in the Ronald Reagan Building and shared their innovative solutions with hundreds of attendees and fellow innovators.

According to USAID, approximately 61 million primary school-aged children do not attend school and another 793 million adults cannot read. These children grow up without reading skills, while the adults are incapable of basic acts such as reading local newspapers and announcements or reading information on topics such as preventing malaria and HIV/AIDS. In developing countries, parents who cannot read tend to have children who grow up illiterate. A primary goal of “All Children Reading” is to stop that cycle of illiteracy.

There are two pillars within “All Children Reading:” the grant competition that supports innovative and scalable projects to improve early grade reading outcomes, and a Mobiles for Reading working group to promote dialogue and knowledge-sharing focused on the use of mobile technology and mobile applications for reading.