Mobiles for reading: a landscape research review

Author(s): Wagner, Daniel A.; Castillo, Nathan; Murphy, Katie M.; Tuz Zahra, Fatima; Crofton, Molly; Phelan, Harrison

Organisation(s): U.S. Agency for International Development

Date: 2014

Pages: x + 138 p.


According to United Nations data, millions of children and youth cannot read a short paragraph in any language. Nearly 70 million children worldwide are not in school; the majority are girls. Though the statistics are distressing, there is some reason for optimism. Significant gains have been made in recent decades toward reaching international educational goals. Many of the world’s poorest countries have dramatically increased the percentage of children now in school. The number of schools has also greatly increased, and the types of educational resources found within schools have expanded beyond traditional chalkboards and textbooks to include new educational technologies and digital resources. One of the biggest challenges today is that while millions of additional children are now being schooled, there is growing evidence that the quality of their learning experiences is still so poor that they do not learn how to read. Further, recent reading assessment studies indicate that many primary school children, even by grade three, cannot read a single word in any language. This landscape review takes the broad domain of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) for education, and focuses on the fast-evolving sub-domain of mobiles for reading, or M4R. The ‘mobiles’ in this review primarily refer to mobile technologies—ICTs that are portable, typically battery powered, and may be connected to cellular networks and/or the Internet. The term ‘reading’ refers to the joint abilities of understanding and producing written language, for children, youth and adults. This review of M4R focuses primarily on the use of mobile ICTs designed to help children learn to read, practice reading (reading to learn), and acquire a broader range of learning skills that support a literate society.

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