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A Reading Companion for Pakistan’s children

Karachi, Pakistan, 29 Jun 2012: Children at ten rural area schools of Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Karachi, operated by Developments in Literacy, have a new companion in school. This Reading Companion takes the shape of a friendly animated character that comes to life in the computer lab and helps children with their English reading skills.

Reading Companion is IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) global literacy initiative that was introduced in Pakistan very recently in partnership with Developments in Literacy (DIL), a renowned local non-profit organization that is working on making education available to underprivileged students. Reading Companion, accessible online to students and teachers, will be available to around ten schools managed by DIL with approximately 1500 enrolled students.

The goal of the Reading Companion grant programme is to help children and adults around the world to gain English literacy skills by using IBM’s voice recognition technology over the web. The Reading Companion software ‘listens’ and then provides immediate audio feedback on pronunciation and accuracy.

Reading Companion will further be offered to selected schools throughout 2012. This will make way for IBM to expand on its mission of providing education to Pakistani children especially in the more disadvantaged communities.

‘Pakistan has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world; [approximately 50% of country’s population is literate] Reading Companion is a great initiative in the Pakistani context, especially as it allows students to get familiar with technology at the same time as learning to read English. This is a great tool for teachers, and we hope we can broaden our reach in the coming years’ Humayun Bashir, CGM Pakistan.

‘English language and digital literacy are two major components of today’s education system. Underprivileged communities of Pakistan are generally denied access to modern learning resources due to language limitations and lack of technology literacy. IBM Reading Companion program is a very good example of how we can make a measurable impact on reducing the digital divide and bring positive influence on our education system.’ Asmat Saleem, Executive Director DIL Pakistan.

At the heart of Reading Companion's effectiveness is its simplicity. Practising readers use headset microphones that connect to their computers. They select e-books their teachers have placed in the virtual bookshelf so the students can practise reading.

About Reading Companion

Reading Companion provides a private, unintimidating setting in which to learn, and is currently being used in more than 2,700 schools and not-for-profit organisations—about half of which are schools—in 41 countries. Approximately 121,000 users are participating in this grant programme

Visit and click on ‘Explore’ to see an overview flash demo of Reading Companion.

About DIL

Developments in Literacy (DIL) educates and empowers underprivileged students, especially girls, by operating student-centred model schools; and provides high-quality professional development to teachers and principals across Pakistan. DIL believes that no child in Pakistan, no matter how poor or underprivileged, should be denied access to quality education and that all children should have equal opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute toward the socio-economic betterment of their communities.

About IBM’s Corporate Responsibility

IBM has developed a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to corporate citizenship that we believe aligns with IBM’s values and maximizes the impact we can make as a global enterprise. IBM focuses on specific societal issues, including the environment, community economic development, education, health, literacy, language and culture.

The education sector is an important focus for IBM in Pakistan. IBM believes a company can only be successful when it operates in a successful community and communities can only be successful when they have a well-educated population.