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Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Google launches literacy project

Google unveiled on Wednesday a Web site dedicated to literacy, pulling together its books, video, mapping and blogging services to help teachers and educational organizations share reading resources.

The site was launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest gathering of publishing executives, in conjunction with the United Nations and a literacy campaign organized by fair officials.

While the service seeks to combine a rich set of resources to combat global illiteracy, it also helps bolster the educational credentials at a company with a market value of around $120 billion.

"Google's business was born out of a desire to help people find information," said Nikesh Arora, vice president of Google's European operations.

"We hope this site will serve as a bridge to even greater communication and access to important information about literacy problems -- and solutions," he added.

More than 1 billion people around the world over the age of 15 are considered illiterate, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The project, at and, also serves as a fresh way for Google to expand and differentiate its fledgling video service, which is playing catch-up against popular sites such as YouTube.

Google has asked literacy groups around the world to upload video segments explaining and demonstrating their successful teaching programs. Among the first few hundred to be posted is a same-language subtitle project from India that uses Bollywood films to teach reading.

A nonprofit group in New York called 826NYC is helping a group of six-to-nine-year-olds make a video tutorial for Google, while a set of older kids is filming a claymation short.

"When our students see the Web as something they can contribute to -- rather than just browse through -- they're inspired to think bigger, write more and film more," said Joan Kim, the group's director of education.

The service also uses Google's mapping technology to help literacy organizations find each other, and provides links to reading resources.

Google embarked two years ago on a massive project to digitally scan all of the world's books, a plan that has been embraced by some publishers and pilloried by others who consider it copyright violation. A group of them have filed a lawsuit against Google in the United States.

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