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Opera, one of the world’s leading browser developers, together with international non-profit organisation – Worldreader, are keeping young South African minds stimulated during the country’s lockdown, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, by giving them access to an expanded range of eBooks via the Opera Mini browser. Starting this week, Worldreader will offer a new selection of eBooks to Opera Mini users as well as a brand-new web app designed to offer reading material tailored specifically for young adult readers. 

The regular version of the Worldreader app provides eBooks for young readers and features hundreds of books for learning and pleasure, in categories including Learn, Health, and Career. Over 100,000 people make use of the platform each month, with new readers joining every day. The new app – BookSmart – from Worldreader, offers a wide variety of eBooks dedicated to children. Both apps can be accessed from the Opera Mini browser, by tapping on the Worldreader speed dial icon. Once opened, users will be able to access the new children’s version of the BookSmart app. The WorldReader web app is also available at: https://www.booksmart.world/free

“When considering ways to mitigate learning loss in a pandemic, it should be a top priority to address supporting reading skills and engagement with books, bridging the gap until schools are in session again,” said Rebecca Chandler Leege, Worldreader’s Chief Impact Officer. “Through mobile technology, we can support the distribution of eBooks and attend the needs of millions thanks to the massive reach of the Opera Mini browser in Africa.”

According to UNESCO,  as of 24 March 2020, 82% of the world’s learners have been shut out of traditional schooling and education programs due to social distancing.  

School closures can result in significant learning loss for students. In response to this global health crisis, UNESCO is supporting the implementation of large-scale distance learning programs and recommending open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely.

Promoting literacy since 2015

Since 2015, Opera and Worldreader have successfully promoted literacy worldwide, with greater attention in Africa to enable millions of people to read free books. There are, however, several barriers in certain African communities that hinder access to online educational materials, especially when schools are shut down.

High data costs, lack of access to mobile technology, and slow mobile network connectivity are some of the challenges faced by these communities when accessing educational content online.

“Mobile data is still very expensive in most parts of Africa, hence the Opera Mini browser’s popularity in the region. Its ability to reduce web page sizes and save up to 90% of users’ mobile data has enabled even more people to connect to the internet”, said Jørgen Arnesen, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Opera. “We believe that millions of children and students can benefit from our partnership with Worldreader by now being able to access educational online content while the COVID-19 outbreak lasts.”

According to the 2019 edition of the Global Digital Report, there are more than 437 million internet users in Africa, presenting a great opportunity to increase online reading, particularly when one in five internet users in Africa choose Opera browsers every day.

“The low bandwidth required on the Opera Mini browser means that readers use less data when accessing the Worldreader app – which is vital for youth in remote communities with slow networks,” said Chandler Leege.

Digital solutions are key for keeping children and youth reading

For children and youth, reading can support literacy skills, 21st-century skills, work preparedness, self-help, and health education.

The Worldreader app gives readers access to one of the largest catalogues of free eBooks. In 2019, nearly one million out of the 1.6 million people in Africa read free digital books thanks to the availability of the app via the Opera Mini browser. BookSmart offers children and parents books curated especially for them.

Digital solutions are key to keeping students reading while schools are closed. With the Worldreader apps, children and the youth can maintain reading skills, learn new subjects, and enjoy the escape books provide during this pandemic.