#300 – ReadM, with Oren Farhi and Dr. Hope Blecher

Unpacking Education June 26, 2024 45 min

Oren Farchi and Dr. Hope Blecher join us to share their inspiring story about how a challenge with learning to speak English led to an innovative and empowering invention: ReadM. ReadM is an online application that listens to students read while providing immediate and targeted feedback to help them grow and progress. During the episode, we learn about the origin story of this app as well as how tools like ReadM can empower language learners.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. . . . For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

Empowering Students, Teachers, and Families

When Oren’s children struggled with learning English at school, it motivated him to take action. He teamed with his children’s language teacher, Dr. Hope Blecher, to create an innovative reading application that empowers students, teachers, and families throughout the reading journey.

With this app, students who struggle with confidence in large-class settings can practice reading in a safe environment, get immediate feedback, and earn coins and congratulations as they learn. Teachers who don’t have enough time in the day to provide each student with regular, timely feedback can now use digital teacher dashboards to track student progress and intervene when necessary. Families who are unsure or unable to help their struggling readers now have a virtual assistant who can help guide their children’s practice at home. Tune in to the full episode to learn more about this innovative learning tool and journey. The following are a few highlights from this episode:

  • About Our Guests: Oren Farhi, founder of ReadM, is a Senior Software Engineer. He has worked in this field for over 20 years and is also an author of development and architecture books. He and his wife moved to the United States in 2018. Dr. Hope Blecher has been in education for 39 years and is the VP of Education and the English Language Advisor for ReadM. She was also the teacher of Oren’s children and has partnered with him in the development of ReadM.
  • Literacy: Dr. Blecher says, “Literacy is not one thing. Literacy is multifaceted. . . . In addition to reading and writing, it means viewing, listening, and speaking.” ReadM aims to reinforce all of these areas of literacy.
  • A Playful Name: ReadM can be pronounced “read ’em.”
  • Reading Struggles: Oren’s children struggled to learn English in a traditional classroom. Dr. Blecher recalls, “I worked with Oren’s children because I was told that they don’t speak in class. Well, they did nothing but speak with me, so it was a beautiful thing. They just felt very uncomfortable in the larger group.”
  • Reading at Home: It’s common for students to be asked to read at home each evening. Oren recalls being told, “Read with your children every day for 15 minutes to improve their English.” While he did ask his children to do this, it was largely ineffective because Oren and his wife weren’t sure if his kids were practicing in a meaningful way or if they were progressing. In homes where English is not the primary language, this type of homework can be a big challenge for families, even those with the best intentions.
  • ReadM: ReadM is a computer program that listens to students read sentences out loud while providing instant feedback on their success. Oren explains, “I created ReadM in order to help my children gain more confidence in speaking out loud, speaking English.” Students can hear the words by clicking on them, and they can then record themselves reading the words and sentences out loud. Teachers can track students’ progress via a teacher dashboard.
  • Feedback and Rewards: To motivate students, Oren programmed the app to provide real-time feedback. As students say a word correctly, it lights up on the screen. If it’s pronounced incorrectly, it does not light up, prompting the student to try again or to click on the word to hear it read aloud to them. When a full sentence has been read correctly, students receive verbal congratulations. As students progress, they also earn play coins that can be used to purchase in-app avatars and doodles.
  • More Than Reading: ReadM offers features that extend beyond reading aloud. It includes the ability for students and teachers to write and illustrate their own books. Teachers can also record their own voice giving congratulatory feedback to students as they progress.
  • Research-Based: ReadM is designed around motivation theory, high frequency words, practice, multisensory engagement, kinesthetic and constructivist learning theories, and more.
  • AI Assistant: Oren is programming an AI assistant into ReadM that can provide customized word lists.
  • An Intuitive Experience: Dr. Blecher says that part of what makes ReadM a success is that it’s easy to understand and use. She says, “I want something easy for my students to use that makes them feel that they’re progressing and, in turn, helps our families function and relieves some of that stress.”
  • Proactive Problem-Solving: Oren’s story is a problem-solving success story, featuring a parent advocating for his family. Dr. Blecher reminds us that when students struggle to learn a language, “It’s not the child’s fault.” She recounts Oren’s drive in creating the app, describing how he would say, “I’m not going to let my family or my children feel inferior. . . . We’re not going to let this bring us down. There has to be a way that we can rise to the occasion and succeed.”

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What was your experience with learning to read?
  • Have you known students who have struggled with reading?
  • How can a tool like ReadM help students improve their reading proficiency?
  • What aspects of ReadM empower learners, teachers, and families?
  • What is your biggest takeaway from the stories shared by Oren and Dr. Blecher?

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