A Prototype Reading Coach that Listens

Jack Mostow, Steven F. Roth, Alexander G. Hauptmann, Matthew Kane

We report progress on a new approach to combatting illiteracy -- getting computers to listen to children read aloud. We describe a fully automated prototype coach for oral reading. It displays a story on the screen, listens as a child reads it, and decides whether and how to intervene. We report on pilot experiments with low-reading second graders to test whether these interventions are technically feasible to automate and pedagogically effective to perform. By adapting a continuous speech recognizer, we detected 49% of the misread words, with a false alarm rate under 4%. By incorporating the interventions in a simulated coach, we enabled the children to read and comprehend material at a reading level 0.6 years higher than what they could read on their own. We show how the prototype uses the recognizer to trigger these interventions automatically.

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