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Billion Readers Initiative: Transforming a Nation into Fluent Readers
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Billion Readers Initiative: Transforming a Nation into Fluent Readers


Programme Partner: PlanetRead

Region: India

India has a population of 1.4 billion and a literacy rate of 80%. However, the quality of literacy is alarmingly low. 600 million Indians are weak readers who cannot read simple texts. Children fall behind in reading from the early grades and weak skills only erode due to a lack of reading practice. Six out of ten weak and non-readers are girls and women.

A billion Indians watch nearly four hours of TV every day. Leveraging this reality, the Billion Readers Initiative (BIRD) aims to ensure daily and lifelong reading practice for a billion people in India by adding Same Language Subtitling (SLS) on mainstream entertainment content on television and streaming platforms. Simply put, SLS is the idea of subtitling audio-visual (AV) content in the ‘same’ language as the audio to serve one vision: Every Indian, a fluent reader.

Backed by compelling evidence-based research, our work has driven national broadcast policy which mandates SLS on 50% entertainment content on television by 2025, in every language, state, and channel.

In the next 5 years, BIRD will deliver on its system-change strategy to:

  • Achieve three national goals of reading literacy, Indian language learning, and media access for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
  • Develop AI speech2text technology in Indian languages to reduce cost of SLS work by 5x.
  • Work with key systemic players including state governments, policy makers, private TV networks, and streaming platforms to scale SLS in 12 Indian languages.

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