PlanetRead’s Same Language Subtitling (SLS) was announced as the winner of “The International Prize” on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington chose the winners of the 2013 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, a new program originated and sponsored by philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.
The Library of Congress Literacy Awards were announced in January 2013 as a program to help support organizations working to alleviate the problems of illiteracy and ‘aliteracy' (a lack of interest in reading) both in the United States and worldwide. The awards seek to reward those organizations that have been doing exemplary, innovative and easily replicable work over a sustained period of time and to encourage new groups, organizations and individuals to become involved.
"The generosity of David Rubenstein in instituting this literacy awards program will have a profound impact not just on the winners and their programs, but also on literacy programs everywhere that can benefit by replicating some of the best practices of those who applied for an award," said Billington. He noted that the Library is producing a publication that highlights the best practices in a number of categories as exemplified by the top applicants.
PlanetRead and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, are championing the SLS innovation that uses TV to solve the problem of mass weak reading skills across India by implementing SLS on every Bollywood film song on TV, in 22 official languages. They will further explore the possibility of implementing SLS in other countries in Africa and South Asia, or wherever reading skills are weak and music-videos are popular.
SLS is simply the idea of subtitling the lyrics of existing Bollywood film songs on TV, in the same language as they are sung in. Essentially, it is Karaoke on popular film songs and music videos. Reading skills are practiced, automatically, subconsciously, and inescapably, as an integral part of staple entertainment already consumed by 650 million TV viewers nationally. SLS is also known to improve program ratings by 10-15%.
PlanetRead and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, have already implemented SLS nationwide, on 10 weekly TV programs of Doordarshan, India’s public service broadcaster. One weekly program is broadcast in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Punjabi. A Hindi song is shown with the lyrics subtitled in Hindi, Tamil songs with Tamil subtitles, and so on. What you hear is what you read. The subtitles are designed to change the color of every word in perfect timing with the song, thus, providing automatic & subconscious reading practice. SLS is also tremendously cost-effective. On a Hindi program one US dollar gives reading practice to 5,000 people for one year.
Independently collected data by Nielsen’s ORG Center for Social Research, found that regular SLS exposure more than doubles the number of functional readers among primary school children. SLS has also become a major contributor to the growth of newspaper circulation.