Speaking Books that are seen, read, heard and understood

Speaking Books that are seen, read, heard and understood

South AfricaJohannesburg, South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Speaking Book provides an innovative, effective and far-reaching solution to the issue of patient education in low literacy communities and for pre school

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Illiteracy is a life-threatening global issue. Almost 800 million adults are illiterate – two-thirds of them are women. Traditional methods of patient education, like brochures and information pamphlets, are ineffective if people cannot read them. Health illiteracy increases the risk of medication non-compliance, as well as the chance of treatment-resistant illness strains. Many diseases like HIV and AIDS, TB, Malaria, and Pneumococcal disease respond to prevention and early intervention, but illiteracy threatened the ability of health care messages being effective. The need was to create an innovative tool that simply and effectively engages patients regardless of literacy levels or geographical location.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

A children’s book. The type of hard-covered book used mainly in Western countries to teach children sounds and basic addition, play them stories, educate them in a visual and auditory way. The Speaking Book is a 16-paged, hard-back book filled with colourful illustrations and simple text with an accompanying 30-second-per-page audio track that reads the copy verbatim. The books are recorded in the most appropriate local language and dialect (often by a local celebrity) and illustrations are done by local artists. Knowledge gain and retention is improved by 50% when information can be seen, read and heard. Now even the most illiterate patient, in the most remote areas, can access and benefit health care information. Strong solutions directly address the need described above.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

difference; include your primary activities: (200) The Speaking Books has over 40 titles created in over 20 languages. Each is its own success story – from the time volunteered by local celebrities, to the support of the media, to the impact on each community the book touches, every Speaking Book has positively changed the lives of individuals and communities. One powerful example was the book: “Caring for your child-headed household’. The issue of orphans and vulnerable children is a massive one. Many children are looked after by slightly older siblings, many children have to balance the roles of parent and pupil. Giving these children skills and support is a crucial area of responsibility. The book was aimed at children who are raising their siblings and gave them, not only words of comfort and support, but also practical everyday tips – hygiene, cooking, bedtimes, how to get ID books and social support grants from the government. At the back of the book are toll-free numbers the children can call for counselling, health care and support. This book was given to each child-headed household in a number of South African provinces and social workers and community caregivers were trained on the use of the book. The response was overwhelming

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The Speaking Book has no competitors. We’re a world first and the only product to address information dissemination, lack of access to care facilities and personnel as well as the issue of literacy. While other organisations work with training nurses, caregivers and lay people in rural communities, they do not address the need of low literacy patients in poor areas. The Speaking Books are distributed through caregivers and NGOs after training is done in the community about the topic and the use of the books as a tool. We work together with other organisations for the betterment of the community.

Founding Story

Buying a book for a friend’s toddler it suddenly became clear. The elusive answer to patient education for low literacy communities was staring Zane in the face – adapt a speaking children’s book! Read the messages to the patient when they cannot read it for themselves! A children’s book, the kind that have brightly illustrated pages and accompanying push-button soundtracks that make noises of animals or tell stories, were there perfect solution for an age-old problem: how to effectively impart crucial knowledge about complex issues to people who cannot understand written information. “Aha”! A solution was found and the Speaking Book concept was borne.
About You
About You
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About Your Organization
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Organization Country

, GT, Johannesburg

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Cost.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

The goal of the Speaking Books is to effectively impart critical health information to patients in hard-to-reach areas, with low levels of literacy, who may be unable to read information brochures due to literacy, illness or age. Poor and illiterate communities are often side-lined on the road to health and this initiative allows all people, regardless of area, reading ability, age or economics to gain information that will empower them and enable them to achieve health and wellness.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Over 300 000 Speaking Books have been delivered, in over 20 languages, across the world. Research is shows that each book is shown to a minimum of 27 people which means that millions of people have been impacted by the messages in these books. From abused and vulnerable children, to HIV positive patients, from pregnant women to pensioners needing to access government grant, the Speaking Book is touching and impacting the lives of all communities and people.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

Speaking Books are now recognized, used and endorsed by USAID, UNICEF, CDC, Johns Hopkins, WorldVision, World Medical Association, etc as making a major contribution to health care education. In addition 5 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies all use Speaking Books to inform disadvantaged communities with critical life saving messages. The momentum is building, the books make a real difference and awareness is growing globally.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The Speaking Books are always provided free of charge to the community and as such financing of these books is always an ongoing issue. However the books are widely known to be effective and companies are excited to be part of long-term, long-lasting education and awareness campaigns in communities. Speaking Books are perceived as items of value that empower the reader/owner. Sometimes ‘owners’ are reluctant to give up or pass on the book. The messages in a particular Speaking Book series might become outdated by new research or treatment but books contain clear publication dates so they can be identified.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Our growth will be maintained by the pipleline of projects already in hand with pharma, USAID, UNICEF and others

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

New updated website for the Speaking book program

Task 2

Development of our new 26 button sound box for early child all childrene reading program

Task 3

Introduction of our monthly newsletter for Speaking books

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Our three big growth opportunites are in handwashing, pneumococcal vaccines and teaching the alphabet

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Speaking Books created for Pfizer and GSK on Pneumococcal Vaccine Awareness will now extend throught Africa

Task 2

The SOPO Handwashing Speaking Book for UNICEF Kenya to be created in other languages for African distribution

Task 3

All Children Reading Speaking Book for USAID should be developed for use by all Children in every country

Tell us about your partnerships

The Acumen Fund has invested into Speaking Books and is a major source of support, inspiration and networking for our global expansion

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

Our target markets are unlimited from creating books for use in the USA on Hypertension and Diabetes, to books in China on Smoking, to Clinical Trials informed consent in India, and every major health issue and risk in Africa in every language. We look to partner with NGO's, Government Departments and international corporations, that have a need to communicate critical messages that need to be seen, read, heard and understood

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

As mentioned above, everyone working on Speaking Books is passionate about their use and impact. In addition every sponsor whether its UNICEF, Pfizer or The South African or Kenyan Ministry of Health, has had such positive feedback and outcomes that they continue to create and order new Speaking books. We also use local celebrities to record the sound tracks in the local languages,who give of their time freely to support important health initiatives like AIDS prevention.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list