A Reading Tutor for Low-Literacy Adults


  • Sarah Amaneddine WISEST student researcher, University of Alberta
  • Tyler Heise Department of Computer Science, University of Alberta
  • Jill Zheng Department of Computer Science, University of Alberta
  • William Wong Department of Computer Science, University of Alberta
  • Shuonan Pei Department of Computer Science, University of Alberta
  • Carrie Demmans Epp Department of Computer Science, University of Alberta




low-literacy adults, reading tutor, improving english, website


According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the mean proficiency in literacy among adults in the US and Canada is at Level 2. Adults at this level cannot process dense texts, eliminate irrelevant information, perform multi-step operations, or evaluate the reliability of a source. The Reading Tutor is a website that was created to help low-literacy adults improve their English. It will be free to use the website that is personalized to the literacy level of every user. Creating a website allows people to increase their literacy levels without facing the stigma that comes with attending a class in person. Adults are inclined to improve their English because it often affects their career potential, socio-economic status, and health. The Reading Tutor has two major components: the passages and the scenarios. Passages are stories that the user can read and answer questions about. Scenarios are plots with questions that the user must answer to move on. In recent work, the information for each scenario was organized into spreadsheets to simplify the process of entering data into the code.

 The system architecture consists of HTML, CSS, Javascript, MySQL, Python, and Django. The newest development in this project was the improvement of the user intake experience. Before starting the passages and scenarios, the website collects information from each adult. The user "interests" pages are the latest additions to the site and these pages ask about the user’s hobbies. That data will then be used to incorporate their interests into later questions. It was important to add this feature to the website because relevance is a motivator for the user demographic. The next steps for the website are to log the user’s interests into the database. Future enhancements also include the creation of more scenarios to accommodate to the different user interests.