Engineering project receives $55K grant to improve reading fluency among children

Posted: May 11, 2018

College of Engineering researchers are developing new computer-assisted technology to improve reading fluency for at-risk children.

Professor Eric Fosler-Lussier
Professor Eric Fosler-Lussier
Led by Computer Science and Engineering Professor Eric Fosler-Lussier, the project is just one of six selected to receive a Battelle Engineering, Technology and Human Affairs (BETHA) Endowment. A record number of 37 proposals were submitted in 2018 for the annual grant competition, which supports projects that examine the complex relationship between science and technology on society and cultural issues.

According to Fosler-Lussier’s proposal, repeated reading is an effective tool for improving fluency among young children and computer-aided technology has been helpful in providing students with additional guided practice. However, previous efforts required relatively powerful, expensive computers for speech recognition. The $55,682 in BETHA funding will enable the research team to create a web browser to make reading verification more accessible, accurate and personalized to the learner.

“Our previous research focused on developing computer-aided strategies for improving reading fluency for at-risk first and second graders,” explained Fosler-Lussier. “That project used off-the-shelf components that required a specific operating system, and did not allow us to identify reading errors well. The BETHA grant allows us to focus on developing technology that will broaden our ability to deliver reading services in a platform-independent fashion.”

Fosler-Lussier said a key component of this strategy is to keep the processing of children’s reading on the local device, which is important when there is little or no internet connectivity—a common occurrence in many schools and homes. Local processing also helps with maintaining Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) standards, as the child’s voice does not leave the device.

“We will also be developing a new pronunciation ‘fingerprinting’ technique that can help the computer better detect reading errors,” he added.

For a full list of award recipients and their proposals, visit

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |