Posted September 11, 2017

Developers test new literacy apps at Temple

Mobile apps designed to increase literacy are being tested at through Temple's Pan-African Studies Community Education Program as part of a competition sponsored by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. 

Literacy app testing at Temple University
Photography By: 
Ryan S. Brandenberg
Adults from across the city take a basic literacy test at Temple before downloading a new app that helps develop reading skills.

Taking part in a nationwide effort to increase literacy, Temple’s Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP) is serving as one of multiple testing sites for a mobile app aimed at teaching adults to read.

Roughly 36 million American adults—one in 15—read at less than a third-grade level, according to a study by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which challenged developers across the globe in 2015 to design a smartphone and tablet app to increase literacy in its Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition.

In Philadelphia, such a solution is sorely needed.

“The illiteracy rate in Philadelphia is among the highest in the state, but adults rarely seek help to improve their skills,” said Ulicia Lawrence-Oladeinde, director of PASCEP. “There’s a stigma attached to illiteracy, which makes it hard for many adults to take the first step.”

Lawrence-Oladeinde said Temple’s Office of Community Relations signed on to be a testing site for the literacy apps so that PASCEP, which provides low-cost continuing education, can not only increase literacy but also expand PASCEP’s reach.

There’s a stigma attached to illiteracy, which makes it hard for many adults to take the first step."
-- Ulicia Lawrence-Oladeinde, director, PASCEP

“Our goal is to integrate adult learners into PASCEP’s existing literacy courses once they’ve completed the app testing,” Lawrence-Oladeinde said.

Eight developers worldwide were selected as semifinalists in the XPRIZE competition. They are currently testing their apps, which seek to help adult learners increase literacy skills over a year span, with adult learners ages 18 to 64 who read at or below a third-grade level. The field testing, of which Temple’s PASCEP is a part, will last five months. Temple is only university participating in the study.

Shlomy Kattan, senior director of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition for the Barbara Bush Foundation, said an ultimate objective of the program is to increase literacy of younger generations by increasing adults’ literacy.

“Working multiple jobs to make ends meet leaves less time for parents to spend with their children, and parents with limited vocabularies also teach their children fewer words,” Kattan explained. “Known as ‘the word gap,’ this phenomenon is well established, but the capacity to address its root cause — low adult literacy — is severely lacking.”

Learn more about adult literacy classes offered through Temple’s Pan-African Studies Community Education Program, or contact 215-204-1993 or for more information.