First ever voice-enabled dyslexia screener for young kids powered by SoapBox

EarlyBird Education, developer of the game-based early literacy assessment, announced its partnership with SoapBox Labs, the speech recognition company that enables joyful learning and play experiences for kids. The integration of speech recognition technology allows educators to use the EarlyBird dyslexia screener to quickly and accurately assess pre-reading students’ oral language skills, and in turn, identify the challenges facing struggling young students before they even start reading.

Developed and scientifically validated at Boston Children’s Hospital in partnership with faculty at the Florida Center for Reading Research, EarlyBird brings together all the relevant predictors of reading in one easy-to-administer assessment. The age-appropriate assessment, powered by voice technology, helps educators identify and support children at risk for dyslexia and other reading difficulties — even before they learn to read. In its first year of serving schools, more than 2,500 teachers in over 100 school districts are using EarlyBird, impacting 20,000 pre-kindergarten through first-grade students.

“Our mission is to change the learning trajectory of pre-readers with a proactive approach to reading support — and speech recognition enables educators to do that, consistently and without bias,” said Carla Small, co-founder and CEO of EarlyBird Education. “Not only does speech recognition technology enable educators to assess oral language skills much earlier and faster, the technology intentionally draws upon a diverse set of young accents and dialects, to help mitigate racial bias and subjectivity in assessment. SoapBox Labs was an obvious partner for us — they share our commitment to developing innovative edtech tools that are grounded in the science and embrace evidence-based practice.” 

Unlike consumer speech technologies, the SoapBox voice engine is built specifically for young children’s unique speech patterns, and processes differences in accents or dialects, reducing implicit bias in learning. SoapBox is the first and only automated speech recognition solution to demonstrate that it can deliver accurate and equitable assessments, receiving the Prioritising Racial Equity in AI Design Product Certification by global education nonprofit Digital Promise.

By powering its reading assessments with the SoapBox voice engine, EarlyBird provides teachers with a much more comprehensive picture of a student’s reading proficiency, at a much earlier age. EarlyBird assessments are administered three times a year. A friendly robot character appears on the screen, holding out a microphone when it’s the child’s turn to speak. AI technology provides automatic scoring, so teachers get immediate results in the dashboard.

“Speech pathologists perform high-quality assessments that include oral responses, but teachers rarely have access to tools with that level of sophistication. Unfortunately, they’re missing data that would help them to identify potential reading difficulties in young children,” said Dr. Martyn Farrows, CEO of SoapBox Labs. “Our partnership with EarlyBird makes this gold-standard approach to reading assessment more readily available at scale to teachers. The implications for our youngest learners — and their dedicated teachers — is really exciting.”

EarlyBird is available for pre-K through first grade today, and is expanding to include assessments of second- and third-graders.

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