Sep 9, 2014

Study of Media Access for Literacy Development

Government School, rural Tamil Nadu, India
Government School, rural Tamil Nadu, India

The PlanetRead Team from Pondicherry, India recently went on a field visit to understand the level of access of various kinds of media and how they could possibilt improve the reading skills of children. Please find below the highlights of the trip: 

Ambika, a 4th grade girl, was all smiles! She could not understand how a weird looking gadget (iPad) suddenly started playing a cartoon. She watched the animated story for about 2 minutes. Then we asked her about the story. She had understood most of it – the animals, the conversations between the characters etc... She was ecstatic and explained how much she liked the AniBook and thanked us for showing her this story. 

Now the interesting part is that we showed this simple story in English: Ambika explained to us what she understood in Tamil, her mother tongue. She was able to easily guess what was going on with the visuals. But unfortunately, though in the 4th grade, she could not read or follow most of the conversations in the story. The Headmaster of the school then told us their children have never seen such content and admitted quite frankly that Ambika wouldn’t have been able to read or follow the dialogues. 

Ambika joins the ranks of 234 million primary school children in India in the 6-14 age group. This was the highlight of our one day field visit to a government primary school in India in a village called Mangalam that is situated approximately 15 kilometers away from Tiruvannamalai, a district in South India. This school has been functioning for over 20 years and this was the first time anyone had visited them or inquired about children’s content, their facilities and their reading levels. 

Though Tamil Nadu is thought of as a high literacy state but it may come as a surprise that, according to ASER (2013), only 29% rural children in Grade 3 are able to read a Grade 1 level text. This figure has remained in the 27.2% to 30.6% range from ASER (2009) to ASER (2013). The national average in ASER (2013) was 40.2%. In this case, we are talking about their own mother tongue. 

The main conclusion of our trip was that we could use the help of local cable TV operators to telecast programs with SLS and thereby help improve the literacy/reading levels of the entire district. 

Same Language Subtitling (SLS) provides automatic and inescapable reading engagement among weak-reading viewers. This engagement then leads to measurable reading skill improvement. Originally conceived by our project leader in 1996, SLS is on its way to become national policy in India on film song-based programming on TV.  

Ambika, Little girl from Govt. School
Ambika, Little girl from Govt. School
Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, South India
Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, South India


Jun 10, 2014

PlanetRead in the Wall Street Journal

We are pleased to announce that PlanetRead's and IIM-A's Same Language Subtitling (SLS) was featured on The Wall Street Journal, May 17-18, 2014, here is an excerpt from the article: 

Literacy, the Subtitle Way, By HANNAH BLOCH
In 1996, a Cornell University graduate student from India took a VCR break from working on his dissertation to watch Pedro Almodóvar's "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." Struggling with the comedy's rapid-fire Spanish, the student, Brij Kothari, wished for subtitles in the same language: If he could read along in Spanish, he felt sure his proficiency would improve. This prompted another thought: If viewers back home in India could watch Bollywood musicals with Hindi subtitles, would it help them learn to read their own language?

To read the rest of the article, please visit:

Same Language Subtitling (SLS) was also featured on Australian channel, SBS Dateline: (10 minutes)

Please spread the word and thank you for your continued support. 

Mar 11, 2014

PlanetRead featured in The Guardian

Our friend Ken Banks posted an article about PlanetRead's work in "The Guardian". Here is an excerpt from the post: 

Digital technology means development is now happening outside the system. The spread of the internet and rise of mobile phone ownership means more social entrepreneurs are succeeding outside the traditional development system.

I recently spent an evening at the University of Sussex talking to students interested in a career in the international development and non-profit sectors. That might not sound particularly interesting at first, except that I've never had a job in either.

Please click on the link below to read more. 


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