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Connecting Through Reading

Originally posted on the InterAction blog, 4/12/12.

When I was a kid, I loved stories so much that my busy parents started getting me books that came with audiotapes to entertain me while they did boring things like going to work or cooking dinner, and then they read to me and interacted with me at bedtime, after the day’s chores were done. Because of both the constant audio stories and the interactions with my parents, I learned to read younger than most of my kindergarten classmates. In high school, I’d sneak a novel anytime I could get (including when I was supposed to be doing homework), and by then I decided to fully embrace my inner word nerd, so in college I majored in English.

I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I couldn’t read, so literacy is a cause very close to my heart. Last month I was excited to attend the launch event for a literacy testing tool created by one of InterAction’s members, the Education Development Center (EDC). The tool is called eEGRA, and it’s an electronic version of a paper tool that USAID has been using for years. The electronic version gives the test much more flexibility and accuracy, and the results are infinitely quicker, but it also keeps that integral interaction between the student and the test administrator.

With eEGRA, the administrator still reads questions for every section, making sure the students understand what they’re being tested on. Even in sections where eEGRA has recorded instructions, the administrator still has parts of that section to read him- or herself to the student. And because the results can be collected and analyzed at the classroom level – the paper version’s results are only collected on a national scale – teachers can to use them to help students work on where they need the most improvement. The administrator can also tweak the settings so that they can evaluate a student beyond the timed section if they want to focus on a particular challenge the student’s hitting.

I’m all for tools that really work to connect people learning to read with people who can teach them. If you’re interested and would like to download a copy, visit the eEGRA website, where you’ll find more information, tutorials and the program itself for download. It’s an interesting tool, even if you’re just a voracious reader and not a literacy or education professional.

A map of literacy around the world created using statistics from the UN Human Development Report 2011. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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