Literacy Bridge’s Talking Book Project Increasing Literacy
Education Case Study: Upper West Region, Ghana Skills
In January 2009, Literacy Bridge partnered with teachers and administrators in the Jirapa District, Upper West Region, Ghana.
Approximately 40 percent of the adult population across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia cannot read even simple
sentences; in the rural Jirapa District, illiteracy is far more prevalent. Since parents are unable to read to their children, literacy
learning occurs almost exclusively in the classroom. Yet classes are extremely overcrowded and children have virtually no
supplies, running water or electricity. The Talking Book allows children to practice literacy learning in the absence of
Increasing Children’s Literacy Skills with the Talking Book
INTRODUCTION THE CHALLENGE
Literacy Bridge began conducting its initial pilot program in Literacy Bridge selected the Hain Primary School for initial
the rural Upper West Region of Ghana in January 2009. Talking Book distribution because it is similar to other rural
Talking Book audio computers, designed to improve schools within Ghana and across Africa. Fewer than half of
literacy and reading comprehension skills, were distributed children attend school in many of the surrounding villages.
to students and educators at the Hain Primary School to Virtually all local families make a living from subsistence
gauge their efficacy in a challenging environment. farming. Children spend long hours in the fields cultivating
their families’ crops and of those who do attend primary
The Hain Primary School has only four trained teachers to school, very few pursue secondary educations.
serve 483 students across six grade levels. Fifth grade has
the smallest class size of 64 students; the second grade Rural schools in many parts of Africa, including the Hain
classroom packs in 112 students. These numbers are not Primary School, suffer from overcrowding and
unusual for schools throughout Africa and South Asia. underfunding. Some classes have more than a 100 to 1
ratio of students to teachers, and most teachers lack any
formal teacher training. Additionally, most schools have no
electricity or running water and not nearly enough
textbooks for all students.
All of these factors make the dissemination of knowledge
extraordinarily difficult. Teachers stress the importance of
education, yet the challenges are immense. Approximately
40 percent of the adult population in Ghana remains totally
Kangpog Y Pius
Teacher, Hain Primary School, Ghana
Kangpog Y Pius, a teacher at the Hain Primary School,
was the first educator to receive a Talking Book. After
reviewing device features and functionality, he introduced
the Talking Book to his class. Pius initially encouraged his
students to record themselves reading textbooks, and to
use the Talking Book playback feature as a means for
improving English pronunciation. The children quickly
familiarized themselves with the Talking Book and began
engaging in a number of literacy learning activities.
http://literacybridge.org email: email@example.com PO Box 1256 Seattle, WA 98111-1256
Literacy Bridge’s Talking Book Project
Literacy Bridge’s Talking Books are low-cost audio All instructions are audio based, so there are no
computers that enable children and their parents to accompanying printed materials. Talking Books are
practice reading when a literate educator is unavailable. portable, durable, and powered by locally available
When paired with a book or even an alphabet written on a batteries, so they are ideal for areas without electricity.
black board, users can engage in active reading exercises,
but the device also supports reading comprehension
The Talking Book project provides learners with a means
questions and other interactive exercises.
of practicing literacy learning skills in the absence of an
educator. Specifically, Talking Books facilitate literacy
“The Talking Book allows children to o Comprehension and pronunciation activities.
continue learning from a text even when o Lesson playback at various speeds.
their teacher is unavailable. There is always o The ability to skip ahead or backwards within and
great interest in the Talking Book, and as a between lessons.
result, a lot of competition to read in the o The ability to define key vocabulary words within a
classroom. Students are excited to read, lesson. Learners can return immediately to where they
left off, so they don’t lose their place.
and they use the device to improve a
o Learners can engage in multiple-choice style question-
number of literacy skills including reading
and-answer sessions, and other interactive activities.
comprehension and pronunciation.”
-Kangpog Y Pius For example, Talking Books are particularly useful for
Teacher, Hain Primary School, Ghana helping children practice English lessons. While English is
the national language in Ghana, there are more than 250
languages and local dialects. English is prevalent in both
Once an educator or member of the community has government and business, and is the standard language
recorded a reading, students can listen to the recording, used for educational instruction. The Talking Book enables
control the speed of playback, choose to have particular children to listen to, and improve, their English
words defined while the story is paused, and skip within pronunciation, which oftentimes they are unable to do at
and between lessons from page to page, line to line, or home.
even word to word. Kangpog Y Pius and other educators at the Hain Primary
School noted student excitement around the Talking
Books. Throughout Literacy Bridge’s five month pilot
project, there was sustained competition in the classroom
to use Talking Books on literacy learning exercises.
Students enjoyed listening to their voices and playing
educational games over a sustained period of time,
indicating that the novelty of the new technology was not
likely to decline after weeks or even months.
Literacy Bridge continues to partner with Kangpog Y Pius
and other educators at the Hain Primary School, and will
continue measuring overall impact into 2010. The
organization plans to partner with additional school
districts in Ghana and other communities across Africa,
Literacy Bridge’s Talking Books Asia, and Latin America.
Talking Books are designed to be produced for less than
$10 US. They allow users to record and play 40 hours of
audio messages through a fully customizable audio menu.
Ghana National Population and Housing Census: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/general/