SoapBox Scholastic

SoapBox Labs Will Bring Voice AI to Scholastic Reading Education Programs

Child-centered voice AI startup SoapBox Labs has inked a long-term deal with education industry giant Scholastic to incorporate its technology into Scholastic reading products. SoapBox is beginning the partnership by powering Scholastic’s new Ready4Reading curriculums, a multimedia phonics system to help students learn to read.

SoapBox Scholastic

SoapBox Labs’ models are capable of understanding what children say far better than the standard adult versions after training on thousands of hours of children’s speech. Ready4Reading is designed to assist teachers with students in kindergarten through third grade. SoapBox’s AI listens to students practicing reading and provides detailed assessment and feedback so that they can know where students may need help and adjust their lessons accordingly.

“The key functionality and feature is our ability to provide high accuracy at a phoneme level for kids when they are reading,” SoapBox CEO Martyn Farrows told Voicebot in an interview. “This product uses a phonics approach, and SoapBox is unique in applying phoneme level breakdown.”

Scholastic and SoapBox have been working on Ready4Reading for a while, but SoapBox smoothed the path to a multi-year deal with Scholastic by demonstrating the breadth of dialects and accents among children its tech can understand. That earned the startup certification from education nonprofit Digital Promise for Prioritizing Racial Equity in AI Design. The certification acts as a shorthand way for SoapBox to prove to potential clients that it has accounted for racial equity in its technology and that it takes the issue seriously.

“We have a shared set of values with Scholastic, not just in focusing on early literacy, but on equity as well,” Farrows said. “More important in the long-term is our shared vision of how voice [tech] can support literacy.”

The Scholastic deal is a milestone for SoapBox, which has steadily widened its reach through partnerships with educational platforms. A deal with Imagine Learning last year brought its AI to students using the Fluent Reader+ reading assessment, while MetaMetrics has embedded SoapBox tech in its Lexile Framework of oral reading tests. SoapBox counts educational institutions like McGraw Hill and Amplify among its clients and served as the impetus for a literacy test designed for Florida State University’s Florida Center for Reading Research.

SoapBox will play a role in Scholastic’s long-term planning through the development of a literacy educational platform. Scholastic envisions a combination of in-class and at-home learning and assessment to boost student literacy. SoapBox and its AI can play a key role in that effort, especially as it continues to refine its models and accumulate data. The AI has responded to more than 100 million requests in approximately two and a half years, according to Farrows.

“One of the most important factors is the idea of helpful feedback,” Farrows said. “Typically, this could be a teacher or a parent, but not every child has access to helpful feedback at home, and a teacher’s time is constrained. Our intention is to put [SoapBox] into multiple products in Scholastic’s portfolio,” Farrows said. “It’s a happy marriage of their pedagogical approach and our ability to uniquely support that in the market.”

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