Schoolchildren testing activities
Hello to our friends and all supporters of same-language subtitling for literacy!
Our ongoing AniBooks for Early Grade Reading project is making great strides. For this project, we're creating animated stories (AniBooks) with same-language subtitles that can help children in grades 1-4 get a jump-start on reading. Our ultimate goal is to reach the rural interior of India where there is a dearth of quality reading material for children.
We've produced a total of 30 stories now (including "Aaloo Maaloo Kaaloo" seen below), and we've created educational activities for the first 20 AniBooks. We've conducted pilot projects testing the stories and activities with schoolchildren. And, finally, we've visited outreach partners who are helping to make our content more widely available. It's exciting to see the project coming to fruition!
Producing an AniBook is a multi-step process that goes something like this:
First, we select a story that seems like a good choice for beginning readers. Then the art and animation work begins. For many stories, an artist is chosen to create content. After our in-house animation team storyboards the project, the artist submits scenes that our animators bring to life. A voiceover artist who speaks clear, standard Hindi then records the narration according to our guidelines. Same-language subtitles are added and timed to change color as each word is spoken. (The same-language subtitles turn a cartoon into a reading opportunity for children.) When the story is nearly finished, we ask reviewers for feedback, and we also bring in music composers to create a background score that children will enjoy. Among our composers are one with a background in therapeutic music for children—and another who works with noted composer A.R. Rahman!
When the art, narration, same-language subtitles, and music are all finalized, we make the AniBooks available on YouTube. (Watch "Aaloo Maaloo Kaaloo" as a sample.)
In order to make each AniBook as helpful as possible for children learning to read, we are adding activities that grow out of the research we've been doing on this project. Kids in grades 1-4 need most help with vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, problem solving, and letters and sounds, so those are the areas we've concentrated on for the activities.
To see how the stories and activities work, obviously, we needed audiences! So PlanetRead team members went to schools in Pondicherry and Ahmedabad to test the content with kids. At one school, children in grade 4 struggled to do the activities, so we created simpler ones. At other schools, kids had no trouble with the activities, and we may even want to create more challenging ones. (We'll pre-assess students in the future so we offer activities that are targeted to their needs.) But what a joy it was to see the children enjoying themselves while learning! Some asked for more stories and even for more worksheets. One teacher told us, "Children love reading from pictures! They understand well and learn fast. All their attention is focused."
In addition to working with kids, we've been doing outreach with partners who will help us distribute the AniBook content. Some, like Project DRUV, are already distributing AniBooks, and we hope to have analytics from them soon. Another partner, 4SL, creates solar-powered wi-fi enabled "digital classrooms" that can be used anywhere, even in places without electricity. We're excited about the potential to get AniBooks in front of more children thanks to partners like these.
More updates coming your way soon—and thank you for your support for same-language subtitles to expand literacy! Our inexpensive, cost-effective literacy programs make the most of even the smallest contribution. We would be very grateful if you would consider making a donation today.
Boys hard at work after watching AniBook story
Schoolchildren and teacher watching AniBook story
Screenshot from "Aaloo Maaloo Kaaloo"