ReadToMe’s Impact on Improving Grade-Level Reading Ability Gap


Matthew Effect in Reading

The concept of the Matthew effect in reading was adopted by Keith Stanovich in 1986.1 The effect (named after the biblical parable in the Gospel of Matthew) describes the observation that learners who acquire reading skills early continue to accumulate reading ability transitioning from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’. (This stems from the notion that the rich, in terms of reading ability, get richer). As a corollary, learners who start with a disadvantage in reading, continue to experience reading gaps that only widen with time, largely precluding them from equitable opportunities to catch up and begin to read to learn. There is also evidence that students ‘left behind’ have a higher propensity to drop out of high school.2

At EnglishHelper, we have had similar observations from our work reaching 30 million students and the 100,000 tests conducted. This paper examines how the reading ability gap varies with grades and how ReadToMe can help fill this increasing gap.

The Ever-widening Reading Ability Gap

Studies conducted by EnglishHelper consistently indicate that the proportion of students at grade-level reading ability remarkably reduces in progressive grades. Evidence from two such projects is presented below:

A. Sri Lanka: A multi-grade large-scale assessment across 2,603 students from 4 grades in schools in Sri Lanka indicates that the percentage of students at grade-level reading ability reduces by 30%-70% in successive grades with the highest reduction observed in the higher grades.

B. Delhi: In Delhi, assessments were conducted with students of grades 6, 7, and 8. Similar observations of declining grade-level reading ability were recorded. Notably, by Grade 8, no student was at grade-level reading ability.

There is an immediate need to improve learning outcomes from two perspectives:

1. Provide interventions at the early and lower grades to ensure mitigation of the learning gap while it is still small.

2. Ensure students in higher grades also receive interventions to allow them to approach expected ability. 3 4

The Role of Interventions in Reducing the Reading Gap

ReadToMe is a multi-sensory AI reading and comprehension software that ‘trains’ itself to read any textbook or reading content. This enables deployment across curriculum, cultures, geographies, and languages – the platform is boundary-less. 

There is evidence that students learning with ReadToMe benefit from 20-40% improvement in learning outcomes in reading and comprehension, compared to counterfactuals.5 We present below the learning growth that students from different cohorts have experienced with ReadToMe.

With ReadToMe, students’ learning outcomes have improved significantly (Treatment, Orange bars) compared to that of students who have not been exposed to ReadToMe (Control, Blue bars). It is important to note that students in the Control group have, in many instances, experienced a decline in grade-level reading ability.

Learning Gains Multiply with Sustained Use

Longitudinal measurements conducted among cohorts of students indicate that sustained use of ReadToMe leads to increasing gains in reading and comprehension outcomes. Studies conducted among Grade 6 students in West Bengal and Maharashtra indicate that 30% to 60% more students achieve grade-level reading ability over a two-year period, compared to Control.


1. There is evidence indicating that learning gaps widen with successive grades.

2. There is an immediate need to bridge existing learning gaps in higher grades, while, simultaneously, preventing a decline in learning in lower grades.

3. Tech-enabled, AI-based reading interventions like ReadToMe have significant potential to effect change.

4. Learning gains multiply with sustained use, bridging the gap further through additive learning outcomes.


1. Stanovich, Keith E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 22, 360-407
(, Retrieved on September 21, 2023)

2. Hernandez, Donald J. (2011). Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
( Retrieved on September 21, 2023)

3. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated the crisis, calling for measures to stem learning losses and help a lost generation recover, especially from the early grades. Schady, Norbert, Alaka Holla, Shwetlena Sabarwal, Joana Silva, and Andres Yi Chang. 2023. Collapse and Recovery: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Eroded Human Capital and What to Do about It. Washington, DC: World Bank.

4. COVID-19 Set Back Older Students the Most,
(, Retrieved on October 18, 2023)

5. Srinivasan, H. Murthy, Improving reading and comprehension in K-12: Evidence from a large-scale AI technology intervention in India, Computers and Education: Artificial Intelligence, Volume 2, 2021,