All You Need to Know About Bolo: Learn to Read with Google

With the launch of a new language-learning tutor aimed at children called Bolo, Google has expanded its suite of apps designed specifically for the Indian market. The app is designed by targeting the elementary-school students, leveraging technology like Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech to help kids learn to read in both Hindi and English.

India’s literacy rate isn’t very inspiring. The country has one of the largest illiterate populations in the world. According to a study by ASER center, only 74 percent of the population are able to read in India. The research that was conducted a few years back added that more than half of the students in fifth grade in rural state schools could not even read second-grade textbooks. By 2018, that figure hadn’t changed much. According to the latest ASER report, still only about half can read at a second-grade level, which is definitely a troubling fact.  

While Google highlights its philanthropic efforts to increase India’s literacy metrics, it is worth mentioning here that improving India’s literacy rate has benefits for Google, too. As India continues to come online with a goal to become the largest internet market in the world, literate users who are capable of using Google’s products, including Search, Ads, Gmail, and many others are of augmented significance to Google’s business.

Google India reported that it has been piloting the Bolo app over the past few months in 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh. During testing, Google claims that 64 percent of children who used the app showed improvement in reading proficiency in three months’ time span. “Early results are very encouraging; we found that 64% of children showed an improvement in reading proficiency in just three months,” reported the Tech Giant. Google also added that, for the next six months, it will work to expand their efforts in child literacy with the collaboration of four non-profits, including Pratham Education Foundation, Room to Read, Saajha, and Kaivalya Education Foundation. 

Bolo is a tutor app that helps children learn to read. About a month ago, this app hit the Google Play Store (India) and recorded over 100,000 downloads. For now, Bolo is Android-only, compatible with phones running Android 4.4 (KitKat) and above. The first thing to mention here is that this app has been crafted and designed for a particular demographic – Indian parents and kids. It runs primarily in Hindi. It offers a catalog of stories in both Hindi and English which are sourced from Storyweaver.org.in.

A Quick Look at the Offered Features

Easy to download – Bolo can be downloaded hassle-free. It asks for certain permissions, including access to a camera and microphone. After agreeing with the terms and conditions, the app asks you to complete the first story in the catalog. Once done, Bolo prompts you to click an image of your kid to create an individual profile of your kid. This image can be used to log in with the same profile in the future.  

Offline usage – Bolo can run completely offline, so there is no need for an internet connection while using the app. For certain situations, like when you have to download more content to the app, there is a need for a data connection.

A reading tutor – The app offers a helpful and interactive animated tutor named “Diya.” The most impressive thing to mention here is that Diya is powered by the same speech technology that is used in Google Assistant. The app enables kids to read all by themselves. It listens to the voice inputs, and Diya encourages and helps all the kids throughout their reading session. Diya reads out the text for your kids whenever they are stuck or encounter any tough word in English. Additionally, she explains the meaning of that word in Hindi.  

A variety of stories – The initial catalog of Bolo contains 50 stories in Hindi and 40 stories in English. The app ensures that its reading material is carefully selected and also promises that more stories will be added soon.

Games and rewards – Bolo offers a variety of interesting games that can be played even in the offline mode. This turns the learning activity into a fun-filled experience. The app offers in-app rewards and trophies to kids on the completion of stories and games.

Multiple profiles – Bolo allows more than one user by enabling kids to have their own personalized profiles. With this feature, the app facilitates parents to track the individual progress of their kids discretely.  

No ads – The app doesn’t show any ads even when your data is on. This one is the best aspect of this app. The basic purpose behind this is to avoid unnecessary distractions and unwanted content during the learning session.

Our verdict

Pros:

  • It contains a variety of content for reading
  • Freely available to download
  • Offers games and other activities
  • Progress tracking feature
  • No ads
  • It works offline

Cons:

  • Android only (Sorry Apple users)
  • Not all languages are supported
  • You need a smartphone for that

From a parent’s perspective, Bolo is probably the very good use of a smartphone if kids are using it. Even if kids get hooked to it, it is still better than handing them some addictive games. The most interesting thing about Bolo is that it offers seamless content offline and without Ads. Stories are good, and they can help your kid in improving their reading skills. To conclude, parents need to keep in mind that this app isn’t a substitute for traditional storytelling and reading from books.