Improving literacy skills

Recognizing that improved literacy is one of the strongest contributors to sustained economic growth, IBM has been committed to improving the literacy skills of children and adults around the world for more than a decade.

One of our key literacy initiatives, the Reading Companion grant program, is working to implement our innovative Reading Companion voice-recognition software in as many countries and schools as possible. The technology is currently in use in more than 700 schools and nonprofit organizations in 22 countries.

Since the program was first introduced in Mexico City in 2006, it has grown to include three Mexican states as well as the Federal District—helping about a thousand students gain essential English language skills and improving their interest in reading. In a recent evaluation of the program, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that Reading Companion sites are not only seeing tangible results in students’ reading and pronunciation but in other areas as well. For example, the evaluation found that students “improve computer literacy…and become more confident in their computer skills.”

“Reading Companion has opened new cultural horizons for our children. With such a wide choice of books to increase their vocabulary and improve their comprehension skills. They’re developing a true love for reading.”

Patricia Díaz Covarrubias, Executive Director, Christel House de México, A.C.

Point of View

“Our research indicates that the U.S. nonprofit sector needed 43 percent more leaders in 2008 than we predicted in 2006. To fill this gap we need to connect talented and experienced people—including those from the private sector—with leadership and management opportunities in nonprofit organizations and in education.

We’re beginning to see how business can help address both this need and the needs of their own employees by assisting with transitions into new fields. Working with Bridgespan, IBM has expanded its Transition to Teaching program to help employees move into positions in the nonprofit and public sector.

Programs like these solve the serious need for highly skilled people in the nonprofit and public sectors as the wave of baby boomers begins to exit the workforce.”

Thomas J. Tierney, Chairman & Co-Founder, The Bridgespan Group

Reading Companion: This web-based literacy program, featuring interactive "voice recognition" software, improves reading skills by giving the learner individualized feedback and reinforcement.

Connect: Practicing readers are equipped with headset microphones that are connected to their computers.

Read: They select an e-book from th evirtual library and read the phrases and sentences aloud.

Understand: The Reading Companion software "listens" and then provides immediate audio feedback.

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