"Carlos," currently a 20-something Dominican-American living in the Washington Heights section of New York City, had dropped out of high school at the age... IBM’s Reading Companion Program Boosts a Career

StanleyLitow

2011 Corporate Philanthropy

Stanley S. Litow
Vice President for Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs
IBM

“Carlos,” currently a 20-something Dominican-American living in the Washington Heights section of New York City, had dropped out of high school at the age of 17. For the next several years, he spent many of his days on local street corners, playing dominoes and drinking beer. At 20, unemployed and without a high school diploma or GED, Carlos came to Northern Manhattan Improvement corporation to study in a pre-GED class. At the beginning of the program, Carlos was reading at a 4th-grade level. Initially, progress was slow. He felt lost in a large classroom as he was not receiving the feedback that he needed.

To provide Carlos with more intensive support, he was introduced to IBM’s Reading Companion. Reading Companion is IBM’s Web-based literacy grant initiative that uses voice recognition technology to help children and adults learn how to read in english. This program is available for free to public elementary schools (for children ages 5-7) and nonprofit organizations such as public libraries, community colleges, and agencies that offer adult literacy services.

Reading Companion is an effective and easy-to-use technology that assists individuals as they learn to read. This innovative software ‘listens’ and provides feedback, enabling emerging readers to practice reading and their English pronunciation as they acquire fundamental reading skills. Approximately 1,100 schools and 1,100 nonprofits serving 85,000 users in 36 countries are participating in the IBM grant program which provides this technology.

Practicing with Reading companion for 90 minutes a day, Carlos demonstrated marked reading improvement in just 18 months. He stated that the Reading companion program gave him the confidence to read independently. His reading score improved six grade levels and he passed the GED test. Carlos found a job as a construction worker, one that he could not have gotten without his GED. Carlos insists that his progress was due to the Reading companion program. He has encouraged many of his classmates to become regular users of the program.

IBM
Corporate Headquarters: Armonk, New York
Website: www.ibm.com
Primary Business: Technology
Employees: 400,000

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