Equity and Access at the Core of Learning Without Tears’ Breakthrough Literacy Program, Phonics, Reading, and Me™



Cabin John MD Early learning leader, Learning Without Tears, today affirmed that equity and access are at the core of Phonics, Reading, and Me™—its K–3 supplemental literacy program designed to help students learn the skills they need to become proficient readers. While the content itself provides multicultural access through decodable texts and small group activities, Phonics, Reading, and Me also benefits from artificial intelligence-driven speech recognition technology powered by SoapBox Labs, the first company in the world to achieve independent certification for identifying and mitigating racial bias in AI design. This certification was awarded by Digital Promise, a non-profit established by the US Congress in 2011 to develop research, practice, and technologies to drive education equity, in partnership with the EdTech Equity Project.

“From the start, Phonics, Reading, and Me was designed to be different,” explained Learning Without Tears Chief Executive Officer, Terry Nealon. “In both content and technology and professional learning and support, Phonics, Reading, and Me raises the bar on delivering bias-free and equitable access learning for all students. This is at the core of Learning Without Tears’ commitment to delivering breakthrough learning programs.”

Partnering with SoapBox since June of 2022, Phonics, Reading, and Me leverages this AI technology to accurately capture data on skills proficiency—regardless of children’s race, background, or ethnicity. This data drives personalized pathing within the system: offering scaffolds and opportunities to stretch so all students progress along the skills sequence together. The data from child-specific, accurate speech technology from SoapBox coupled with Learning Without Tears’ activities and proprietary pathing formulas drive efficacy and empowers young learners with the essential literacy skills they need to access grade level text.

In a press release announcing SoapBox’s certification, Nidhi Hebbar, co-founder of the EdTech Equity Project said, “This (certification) award not only recognizes SoapBox Labs’ commitment to racial equity but also constitutes a meaningful step forward for the EdTech industry.” Soap Box’s voice-enabled technology “sets a high standard for the industry by investing in the critical work required to ensure their AI works well for learners of color” and all other learners equally, the press release said.

“Creating AI technology for children to use requires an ‘equity by design’ approach and philosophy,” according to Dr. Amelia Kelly, SoapBox’s chief technology officer. The company’s equity framework ensures that a solid structure exists from which to test, address, and mitigate bias in all areas, from data processing and model building to product design and evaluation activities.

“Phonics, Reading, and Me incorporates speech recognition technology into the broader Learning Without Tears personalized learning environment, which helps provide teachers with a more streamlined and accurate assessment of a student’s reading skills,” Nealon said “Within the program, teachers get tailored recommendations from a variety of powerful engaging content, continuously adapting to the needs of each student along their learning paths. And, with our embedded professional learning, we’ve made it incredibly easy for teachers to implement this program all with an unprecedented level of multicultural equity and certified mitigation of any racial bias.”

Lessons included in the Phonics, Reading, and Me program focus on rich texts that give students decoding and skills practice. All components: student books, lesson cards, digital learning, reading response journals, sound-spelling activities, and formative assessment cards work together to provide ample opportunities for children to read, talk, and write—all vital steps on the path toward successful reading. 

With Phonics, Reading, and Me, students build skills and knowledge and connect the text to their own diverse experiences. Its print resources link seamlessly with technology to personalize supports and yield actionable insight for educators—reporting on individual student level growth through district-level growth. Phonics, Reading, and Me gives students a personalized learning plan that balances instruction and practice—and, most importantly—provides equity and access for all students.

About Learning Without Tears

Learning Without Tears is a leading early education company offering a proven and unique approach to teaching and learning, from crucial readiness skills in Pre-K to foundational writing and typing skills, including handwriting, keyboarding, and cursive. The elementary school-level programs benefit all learners with multisensory, developmentally appropriate, proven practices, and are used by millions of students around the world. Learning Without Tears professional learning programs deliver early education expertise to thousands of teachers, tutors, and occupational therapists in the United States and across the globe. For more information, please see www.lwtears.com.

About SoapBox Labs

Since 2013, SoapBox Labs has been building speech recognition technology that caters to the idiosyncrasies and unique speech patterns of children. In the education space, our award-winning voice engine powers Pre-K–12 digital screening, practice, intervention and assessment tools for literacy, math, language learning and more. By the end of 2022, SoapBox had powered over 70 million learning moments (individual pieces of student feedback) through our global education publisher partners. The SoapBox voice engine is proprietary and has been built from the ground up to power immersive and unbiased digital experiences for children ages 2 to 12 of every accent, dialect, and stage of development. SoapBox is a privacy-first and equity-by-design company. In October 2022, SoapBox became the first AI company to be  certified for Prioritizing Racial Equity in AI Design by Digital Promise. Learn more at  www.SoapBoxLabs.com

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