Without access to physical classrooms during the COVID-19 crisis, many children are relying on technology to continue their educations. A new application from Google aims to make this transition a little easier. As TechCrunch reports, Read Along is an interactive app designed to strengthen students' reading skills in the same way reading with a teacher or parent can.
Read Along is the new-and-improved version of Bolo, an app Google debuted in India in 2019. This upgraded iteration is meant to be used internationally, and it's compatible with nine languages.
Users have their choice of roughly 500 stories to choose from in the app. As they read along by speaking out loud, Google's speech recognition software monitors their accuracy. If a kid is stuck on a word or sentence that's particularly difficult, Read Along's virtual assistant Diya offers reading help and words of encouragement. Students can also ask Diya for reading or pronunciation help whenever they come across a word they don't recognize. To keep kids engaged and monitor their progress, the app challenges them to word games for the chance to win in-app rewards between readings.
Google's app is the latest example of how reading is being used to keep kids remotely connected while schools are closed. Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton started hosting live story times on his Twitter page, and Dolly Parton has been reading books from her Imagination Library to young fans.
Parents and anyone else responsible for teaching kids at home can download Read Along from the Google Play store. The app is free, and it doesn't feature any advertisements or in-app purchases.