A Lofty Mission—Reducing Illiteracy—But First a Hopkins Degree

In 2014 Brazilian entrepreneur Americo Amorim formed a company called Escribo to reduce illiteracy in his country. He had discovered that 70 percent of Brazilian public school students finished the third grade unable to read. His mission was as daring as it was lofty because, while he had experience creating apps that taught young people how to play musical instruments, he had no experience in language and reading development. So he set his sights on getting an education himself.

“The EdD program at the Johns Hopkins School of Education seemed perfect for me because it is focused on developing students’ knowledge to solve a problem of practice,” said Americo, who received an Aileen and Gilbert Schiffman Fellowship. “Brazilian doctoral programs are not designed for applied research.”

For his problem of practice, Americo is creating a program comprised of digital games supporting the development of students’ phonological awareness skills—rhyming, alliteration, and syllabic and phoneme operations—that he hopes will be implemented in Brazilian public schools. He currently is piloting the first games, and his goal is to develop a randomized controlled trial to evaluate their effectiveness using standardized tests for phonological awareness, reading and writing.

“My goal for the next five years is to create a comprehensive reading program that helps educate my people in the spirit of fun,” he said.