- Making Books Accessible to All Children by 2023; Linda Hiebert, USAID
- Sourcing Innovative Solutions that Drive the Creation and Usage of Early Grade Reading Materials for All Children; Michelle Oetman, World Vision
- The Last Mile: Making Sure Digital Libraries Deliver on their Potential; Morgan Belveal, The Asia Foundation
- Providing Access to Free, High-Quality, Early Grade Reading Resources in Languages that Children Use and Understand; Christer Gunderson, Global Digital Library
- Empowering Educators to Use, Adapt, and Create Local Language Reading Materials for Children, Suzanne Singh, Pratham Books
New estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicate that, more than 617 million children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. Among this 617 million, 387 million children are of primary school age (about 6 to 11 years old). The new data signal a tremendous waste of human potential that could threaten progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (UNESCO 2017). The ability to read is at the heart of self-education and lifelong learning and it is a skill capable of transforming life and society (Adenyinka Samson 2007). The development of literate societies remains the central challenge to ensuring literacy skills can be developed and sustained, as the availability of reading books in schools and communities in low-middle income countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America remains very limited. Children need exposure to a wide variety of appropriate reading materials starting in their early years, to gain the necessary foundational language and literacy for content learning that will support their future employability and productivity. As noted by Shrestha and Krolak (2015), “...it is not enough to simply teach the population how to read if there is actually nothing relevant to be read and furthermore no motivation or demand for them to use and practice their literacy skills.”
Digital libraries offer a great opportunity to close both the book gap and reading achievement gap. They contribute to expanding access to books by children regardless of time or place. The books can be read on personal computers, portable book readers, a smart phone or in print. In addition, with digital libraries it is easy to create new editions since the libraries offer features for translating or modifying existing editions.
The panel session will discuss how digital platforms harnesses technology and organizes communities and education stakeholders to contribute new content, translate and share content among local and regional languages quickly and cost effectively. The panel will highlight these platforms’ collaborations with government agencies (Ministry of Education curriculum centers) and other implementers for the purpose of maximizing accessibility and use of content available on the platforms to support reading programs. Three organisations implementing digital libraries and two organisations making books accessible to children through funding, technical assistance and advocacy will present for the panel.