SoapBox Labs and Amplify Debut Voice-Based Children’s Literacy Assessment

Edtech software developer Amplify has launched a new literacy assessment for kids in a partnership with children’s speech recognition tech startup SoapBox Labs. The new Text Reading Online measures how well kids can read and understand written information thanks to SoapBox Fluency, which automatically tracks performance and shares the data with the teacher.

Literate Learning

Text Reading Online sets up a standard literacy measurement for students with two pieces of text to read aloud. One of the pieces is set at the standard grade level for the student, up to the sixth grade, while the other is adjusted based on the results of the first reading. Reading speed, errors, and other indicators are marked by the AI and collated into a format that a teacher can use to figure out in what areas a child needs help reading. Fluency fits into the larger service like an API in any app, but with the benefits of SoapBox’s specialization in children’s voices. SoapBox has

The seven-year-old Irish startup built Fluency and its other products by applying deep learning technology to thousands of hours of children’s speech. Children don’t speak the same way that adults do, and the difference can confuse standard voice assistants, which is why educational organizations are keen to work with SoapBox. The startup has raised €10.2 million, including closing a €6.3 million funding round in April. Financial details about the deal with Amplify were not disclosed. SoapBox has already been adding its technology to literacy tests starting late last year when it partnered with Florida State University’s Florida Center for Reading Research (FCCR) to develop new ways to test and measure literacy in children as a critical step toward new ways of teaching kids to read.

“This is about making educators’ lives just a little bit easier by providing them with tech-enabled tools that allow them to engage in accurate and private literacy assessment for all their students,” SoapBox Labs CEO Patricia Scanlon said in a statement. “But the implications are even more far-reaching. The moment for voice tech in learning has arrived, and we view our work as essential in the development of a more inclusive, equitable education future.”

Distance Education

Text Reading Online is a free part of Amplify’s mCLASS. Since literacy tests like this usually require direct observation by an educator, the remote collection of this data when it’s more convenient for both students and teachers. With Fluency in place, teachers could conduct the test more frequently, simultaneously running it for whole classrooms without the intensive time demands that would normally mean, while sharing the data with the child’s parents or other teachers instantly. Those bonuses may help help make up for the limits of distance education that so many students must rely on during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.

“Given the realities of teaching and learning in a pandemic, educators are seeking approaches to assessing a child’s independent reading when they cannot be together in person,” Amplify CEO Larry Berger said in a statement. “We are pleased to offer Text Reading Online as a part of the overall mCLASS literacy suite to help educators assess their students’ reading development remotely, including the accurate identification of learning loss and how best to address it, this year.”


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