Computer science students have come up with an innovative way to help children learn to read - a software that acts as a virtual reading coach.

Ashley Steel, Luke Bjerring and Andreister of Waikato University worked with a curriculum coordinator in Switzerland and primary teachers in New Zealand to develop software, called BookieMonster, which acts as a reading coach.

The software computerises a proven method of learning tuition, dubbed “repeated reading” using computer-generated voices and speech recognition.

Children using the software listen to a text being read aloud by the computer, following the words as they are progressively highlighted on-screen in time with the voice, similar to karaoke, according to a Waikato statement.

After hearing a text read to them a few times, they then read it back to the computer via a microphone. The software recognises their speech and provides the same progressive text highlighting what they received while being read to.

The students now have a working prototype and are setting up trials in local schools. Ultimately they hope to see their software distributed via existing initiatives in developing nations where literacy in some places is as low as 50 percent.

Keywords: reading tools

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