There are nearly 800 million illiterate people in the world. If we could reduce that number by 170 million, the UN  estimates are that we could remove 12% of the world’s poverty. Curious Learning: A Global Literacy Initiative was co-founded by Cynthia Breazeal ( MIT Media Lab), Maryanne Wolf and Stephanie Gottwald  (Tufts  University),  Robin Morris  (Georgia State University), and  Tinsley Galyean ( formerly at MIT), and originally  funded  by Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab and One Laptop Per Child. Our goals involve both the development and/or curation of age- and language-appropriate apps for children that correspond to the research on the reading brain,  and also the design and implementation of a global platform capable of bringing together a compendium of digital  educational activities and resources. In so doing, we hope to be   able to reach multiple populations, particularly the disenfranchised children in remote regions of the world. Our ultimate goal is to work with  groups around the globe to  bring literacy to as many children as possible  by the end of the decade and thus  to reduce world poverty in the decades to come.


In January, 2018, a Global Literacy Workshop was held at Stanford at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences on the topic: Global Literacy and Neuroscience. The report to the Chan- Zuckerberg Initiative which funded the Workshop is found here  which includes an embedded transcript  of the meeting and powerpoint presentations by world leaders in global literacy. 




Wolf, M., Gottwald, S., Breazeal, C., Galyean, T., & Morris, R. (2016). “I hold your foot”: Lessons from the reading brain for addressing the challenge of global literacy. In A. Battro, M., P. Lena, M. Sanchez- Sorondo, & J. von Braun (Eds), Children and sustainable development(pp 225-238). Springer Verlag.

Gottwald, S., Morris, R., Wolf, M., & Galyean, T., (2017). Bringing the bottom billion into basic literacy: How we can and why we must. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development. (158): 93-104.

Wolf, M. (2016). Global literacy initiative: An update. Chapter in A. Battro, K. Fisher and M. L. Majadalani (Eds.). Mind, Brain and Education at ERICE: Ten Years. 213-218.

Breazeal, C., Morris, R., Gottwald, S., Galyean, T. & Wolf, M. (2016). “Mobile devices for early literacy intervention and research with global reach.” Conference paper to be published in Proceedings of the Third ACM Conference on Learning at Scale, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Wolf, M., Gottwald, S., Galyean, T., Morris, R., & Breazeal, C. (2014) The reading brain, global literacy and the eradication of poverty. In A. Battro, I. Potrykus, & M.S. Sorondo (eds), Bread and Brain, Education and Poverty. Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Vatican.

Wolf, M., Gottwald, S., Galyean, T., & Morris, R. (2013) Global literacy and socially excluded peoples. In J. Sachs & M.S. Sorondo (eds),  The Emergency of the Socially Excluded. Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Vatican.

Wolf, M. & Ullman-Shade, C. (2012). The emerging, evolving reading brain in a digital culture: Implications for new readers, children with reading difficulties, and children without schools. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 11(3), 230-240.

Global Literacy, the Reading Brain & the Development of Empathy