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Google's Read Along app helps kids learn amid coronavirus school closures

The app, available in over 180 countries, provides verbal and visual feedback as children read stories aloud.

Google is using its speech recognition tech to help kids read.

Google on Thursday shared early access to its Read Along app for Android, which is designed to help kids 5 years and older learn to read. The app provides verbal and visual feedback as children read stories aloud. Read Along is one of several online platforms meant to keep students engaged and learning as schools remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Read Along features an in-app reading buddy named Diya, who uses Google's text-to-speech and speech recognition technologies to determine if a child who's reading is struggling. Diya gives positive feedback throughout the session, and kids can tap on Diya whenever they need help pronouncing a word or making their way through a sentence. 

The app features a range of stories from around the world, which also contain games. Kids can collect stars and badges as an incentive to keep playing and reading. Parents can set up profiles for multiple users, who track their own progress by clicking on their photo. Story and game recommendations are personalized based on a child's reading level performance.

There are no ads or in-app purchases, and no sign-in is required. Following the download of the app and stories, Read Along also works offline. Voice data is analyzed in real time on the device to keep it working offline, and it isn't sent to any Google servers, the company says. 

Read Along first launched in India last year, as Bolo. It's now available in more than 180 countries and in nine languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi. Google says the app will evolve with feedback from families, and the selection of books and features will expand. You can download the app on the Play Store