Sesame Workshop India Launches ‘Play.Connect.Learn’: A Program Focused on Improving Marathi Reading Skills of Children

Initiated through the All Children Reading Grand Challenge grant, the program aims to reach 12,000 children in Maharashtra

Kolhapur, Maharashtra, October 27, 2016: Mast Khela!” “Ya Kheluya!” “Phalya Maage Dandlaay Kaay!” As you walk through the streets of the villages in Sangli you hear these words echoing in the houses. These are sounds from basic smartphones in the hands of young kids as they cheer and play the Marathi digital games loaded on their phones. These digital games are in an application provided to families by Sesame Workshop India (SWI) as part of its recently launched initiative – ‘PLAY.CONNECT.LEARN’, an initiative funded by the All Children Reading (ACR) Grand Challenge, a partnership of USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government this year-long program which aims to improve grade-level reading, a basic skill needed for lifelong learning. Evidence demonstrates that reading in the mother tongue in the early years helps children build a stronger learning foundation. As part of the project, SWI has built an innovative and adaptive learning system which can be used on basic smartphones to deliver self-paced engaging learning content in Marathi for children aged 5 -8. The intervention is taking place in Sangli, Kolhapur, Amravati, Buldhana, Chandrapur and Yavatmal districts of Maharashtra and aims to reach approximately 12,000 children.

Play.Connect.Learn builds on SWI’s proven model of providing engaging content in the hands of the child to bring the greatest learning. The program rolls out in three phases, each phase comprising a digital application loaded with storybooks and games with an in-built assessment. Children play the games to practice and reinforce the skills learned while reading the e-books which get unlocked basis the child’s learning progression and reading ability. Repeated exposure to these literacy-based games and stories will aid the child’s reading development specifically letter recognition, letter/sound recognition, phonemic awareness, reading high-frequency words, oral reading fluency and reading comprehension.

According to Sashwati Banerjee, Managing Director, Sesame Workshop in India, “Multiple studies reflect that over years reading levels of children are deteriorating. ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) shows that 69% of Std IV children studying in government and private schools of Maharashtra are unable to read even Std I level text, while 53% studying in Std V cannot read Std II level text. While school enrolment may be increasing, children’s learning levels are clearly not. In response, an increasing proportion of rural families is investing in private schooling and tuitions each year and is yet receiving a sub-optimal quality of education. Play.Connect.Learn leverages the exponential growth of mobile coverage in rural India to foster informed participation of families and communities, in promoting early, basic and proficient reading skills in the mother tongue. The initiative additionally leverages the Marathi dubbed version of Galli Galli Sim Sim which has reached 22 lakh children over the last year through broadcast on DD Sahyadri.”

The Play.Connect.Learn application is being used by selected families across the districts of Maharashtra and the response received has been very encouraging. Children are enjoying the games. While the elder kids (7-8 years old) are beginning to read full sentences, the younger ones are able to recognize letters and objects. More importantly, parents are observing value in using technology for learning.  A case in point is of 7 years old Bhushan Jitendra Jadhao who lives in Parkhed village in Buldhana along with his ten family members. SWI’s implementation partners Vikas Sahyog Prathisthan approached Bhushan’s family in Parkhed to introduce them to the Play.Connect.Learn program. Initially, Bhushan faced difficulty in using the Marathi reading application but his mother supported him and now he is able to browse through the app and learn from it. His teachers and family members have observed improvements in his reading skills especially letter recognition, words identification and picture recognition. The app has also helped him progress in his Grade I syllabus. He now feels proud and confident to write letters on the blackboard in his class.

Like Bhushan, every child has a potential to learn when provided with selfpaced content. This is particularly so when the content is in the mother tongue. Engaging content in the hands of the child can bring the greatest learning. Play.Connect.Learn is an opportunity to build the Marathi reading skills of children so that they can understand basic literacy concepts in a language that they are comfortable in.

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About Sesame Workshop India Trust

Sesame Workshop India Trust is leading the movement to change the educational paradigm through its innovative projects that put children at the center of development. Under our flagship initiative Galli Galli Sim Sim, we work in low resourced classrooms and communities to bring children and their caregivers’ language and strategies that have proven impact on their literacy, numeracy, physical wellbeing and social -emotional skills. Since 2007, we have reached over 5 million children across India in partnership with the government, other nonprofit organizations and the corporate sector in our mission to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

About All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development

Launched in 2011 by the US Agency for International Development, World Vision and the Australian Government, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is an on-going series of competitions that leverages science and technology to create and apply scalable solutions to improve literacy skills of early grade learners in developing countries.

To learn more about the winners’ solutions go to: www.allchildrenreading.org.

For further information, please contact:
Jigyasa Nawani,
9873019224