Same Language Subtitles: India’s Billion Readers (BIRD) Initiative

Date Completed

Functional reading ability by age 10 is the critical skill that determines quality primary education, information access, and lifelong learning potential. In India, half the children in Grade 5 cannot read a Grade 2 level text. India has 600 million such weak readers (plus 250 million people who are illiterate). The project’s theory of change is that most children able to decode a few letters in any language, if regularly exposed to same language subtitles (SLS) as part of their daily TV entertainment, will automatically become more proficient readers.

In India, SLS will be required on 50% of all TV entertainment content, on 900+ TV channels, in all languages, by 2025. Despite the closeness of that deadline, the policy is not currently being implemented. The goals of the project are four-fold: (1) work with content creators to implement SLS on existing Hindi films in the TV pipeline, as the policy requires; (2) work with policy-makers and the film and TV industry to implement SLS on all new content during production; (3) significantly and measurably improve the reading skills and quality of education among 250 million primary school children and millions more out of school children, youth, and adults; and (4) close the gender gap between girls’ and women’s reading literacy via programmatic decisions.

John Gabrieli
Lab Name
Gabrieli Lab