MU literary professor earns $4 million grant for speech recognition software

The talk-to-read software allows for students to watch their own words come to life virtually, improving literacy and comprehension.

April 22, 2022


Brian Consiglio: Studies have shown that children who are proficient readers by the end of third grade are far more likely to graduate high school, become employed, and even stay out of jail.

To boost vocabulary, reading comprehension and help set up young students for success in school, MU literacy studies professor Betsy Baker earned a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to use speech recognition software that allows second graders to speak verbally to their personal tablets and watch their words come to life visually.

Baker: That’s what this is all about, allowing children to talk about their own personal experiences and seeing then those words appear on the screen, and there is good research out there that indicates because it’s their own vernacular from their own experience, they readily learn then what their language looks like when it appears on the screen.

Consiglio: For the grant, Baker is partnering with MU’s eMINTS National Center, which provides research-based professional development to help teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. The project will impact 1,800 total second grade students in rural, underserved Missouri School districts.

Baker: We hope to give them independence so they are confident and excited about reading and writing. When they are the ones creating the materials, now suddenly they will learn these words that are relevant to them, personally meaningful to them. We want to support children before they fall behind and make sure they can independently and proficiently read.

Consiglio: For more on this research, visit

I’m Brian Consiglio, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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