We have partnered with technology company Sparkup to work on the development of oral translation technology that has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of high-quality, international children's literature in Zambia. The Sparkup device is a small instrument that attaches to the back of a picture book. Using an in-built camera paired with a speaker and a microphone, the device is able to scan the picture, identify the page, and match the page of the picture book with a recording of the text. Lubuto identified the potential for the Sparkup to be used for multilingual oral translation of picture books, in which the device is paired with an English-language picture book, and recordings are done in Zambian languages.
Early collaboration with Sparkup has already yielded the development of a device that allows the user to switch between three different languages. Trial use of the Sparkup in the libraries has demonstrated a high level of engagement and interest on the part of users, and research suggests that pairing audio and text is a valuable strategy for struggling and emergent readers. The Sparkup is also a useful tool for visually impaired children and children with learning disabilities. This year, we will provide ten Sparkup devices in each library, while also creating new recordings in four languages (iciBemba, Cinyanja, Chitonga, and English).
Children learn to read most effectively when they are taught in their native languages. Zambian teachers and talented youth from Lubuto libraries created and launched a computer-based pilot program for teaching children how to read in their mother tongues, using OLPC XO-1.5 laptops and Etoys in 2011. These initial LubutoLiteracy lessons received funding from the eIFL.net Public Library Innovation Program. The pilot lessons are extremely popular among children and educators served by Lubuto libraries and have been used by more than 10,000 people.
In 2012, we were one of 32 recipients to receive funding from the first round of the All Children Reading Grand Challenge, a competition founded by USAID, World Vision and Australian AID, to update and expand LubutoLiteracy lessons. The new 710 lessons in seven different Zambian languages are an extension of the Zambian national curriculum. They were designed by Dr. Joseph Mwansa of the University of Zambia, who developed the government's new reading curriculum. The lessons have been completed and we are currently investigating using a more user-friendly platform. Educators and children—both in- and out-of-school—across the country will all have access to this important educational tool.