5 apps to improve literacy

A mobile game called “Worm Attack!” teaches players to rid themselves and their communities from infestation with intestinal worms, a problem that affects 600 million school-age children worldwide. The USAID-supported Half the Sky movement developed this game in hopes that the problem can be addressed and children will stay in school and have higher rates of literacy. Photo by: Ed Owles / Worldview / U.S. Agency for International Development / CC BY-NC

Mobile phones are without a doubt a game changer in global development, facilitating the delivery of basic services such as education.

At its recently concluded meeting in Paris, members of the U.N. Broadband Commission for Digital Development suggested that mobile devices and related apps, coupled with connectivity, have the potential to help realize education for all.

“For the first time in history, mobile broadband gives us the chance to truly bring education to all, regardless of a person’s geographical location, linguistic and cultural frameworks, or ready access to infrastructure like schools and transport,” International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said during the meeting, one of the featured events of UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week, Feb. 23-27.

Indeed, myriad learning apps are now available, with some in local languages. Here are just a few examples:

Developer: British Council
Available for Android, Apple and Windows devices

This is a suite of apps that enable users to learn and improve grammar skills, both in British and American English, and widen their vocabulary.

MoToLi Library
Developer: Education for Development
Available for Android devices and Windows, Apple and Linux computers

MoToLi Library is part of suite of applications designed to teach reading in native languages. The open-source app allows writers to develop storybooks suited for early grade reading and schools to build a digital library where users can store and print books on demand.

Shabdon ka Khazana
Developer: Sesame Workshop India
Available for Android devices

Catered to children in India, this digital word game features the revered Sesame Street character Elmo on a treasure hunt. It teaches players beginning and ending sounds, rhyming words, reading skills and problem solving.

Ustad Mobile
Developer: Ustad Mobile
Available for most devices

Ustad Mobile is an open-source learning platform that allows users to create content to improve literacy and facilitate skills training. In Afghanistan, where girls were banned from attending school during the Taliban rule, the United Nations has used Ustad Mobile to help 150 female police officers from 11 Afghan provinces read and write.

Worldreader Mobile
Developer: Worldreader
Available for Android and Windows devices as well as feature phones

This application is billed as “the single place to discover, read, and collect free books in a variety of languages, from different parts of the world.” It hosts more than 15,500 e-books and stories in 43 languages and from at least 150 publishers, including science, technology, engineering and math textbooks and learn-to-read books.

Know other great learning apps? Leave a comment below, tweet #YouthWill — and check out the Youth Will website.

Youth Will is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with Chemonics, The Commonwealth Secretariat, The MasterCard Foundation and UN-Habitat to explore the power that youth around the globe hold to change their own futures and those of their peers.

About the author

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    Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Currently based in New York City, Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.