In Arlington County, Virginia, where I recently had two kids in elementary school, I knew there were a variety of “garden” paths for my children to have access to textbooks and other reading materials – in their classrooms, nearby libraries and at home. Unfortunately, in the majority of the countries where I work in international development, there simply is not dependable access to reading materials in classrooms and communities. This is just one of the challenges to delivering early grade instruction to the estimated 250 million children across the globe who are not learning basic literacy and numeracy skills – skills that we, as parents and community members, know are essential to unlocking their potential.
Despite decades of funding from the U.S. government and other donors going towards textbooks and reading materials in low-income countries, many early-grade classrooms continue to fail to meet the needs of their learners.
One of the leading causes of this failure is the inability – due to logistical and other governance challenges – to get purchased reading materials into the hands of students who need them most.
As a result, government and other donor agency officials, as well as local stakeholders, often discover that materials have not arrived at intended schools, yet have no way to know where the materials are stored or if they have disappeared. Despite this, we recognize from experience that when parents, teachers and other local stakeholders know which materials are supposed to be delivered, and when, they will advocate for on-time delivery. But this information is often missing.
To help address this problem, the founding partners of All Children Reading: a Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) -- the United States Agency for International Development (where I work), World Vision, and the Australian Government – launched a $100,000 prize, Tracking and Tracing Books, on January 23 at the Collaborate innovator’s conference in Washington, D.C.
Through this global competition, we seek technology-based innovations that ensure families, teachers, school administrators, Ministries of Education, and donor agencies can quickly, easily and accurately locate textbooks and supplemental reading materials destined for early grade classrooms and other learning centers. To find out more about this call, please visit the ACR GCD website.
Tracking and Tracing Books is one of a series of ongoing global grant and prize competitions which USAID is supporting to leverage science and technology to create and apply scalable solutions to improve literacy skills in developing countries. We invite you to join us – and to help attract other problem-solvers – to plant and raise “gardens” of reading in classrooms, homes and kid’s pockets around the world.
Anthony Bloome has worked as the Senior Education Technology Specialist at USAID since 2009. He is the campaign director for ACR GCD and is the founder of the Mobiles in Education (mEducation) Alliance, an international stakeholder initiative exploring the scalable utilization of appropriate technologies to support education in developing countries.