Introducing NABU Learning Labs: Results of NABU’s First Ever “Research Sprint”

Introducing NABU Learning Labs: Results of NABU’s First Ever “Research Sprint”

NABU was named one of the winners of the Schmidt Futures Forum on Learning “Tools Competition,” earlier this year and quickly transformed into a learning lab where we will be holding exciting “research sprints” partnering with leading academic researchers going forward and we look forward to documenting this journey through this research series blogs!

At NABU we are always looking for more insights to improve the experience of the end users who deserve to learn how to read and rise to their full potential. Our first research sprint provided incredible data into the Rwandan user-base, including their reading patterns, environments, and content preferences. The study’s discoveries are driving strategic, data-driven growth of NABU’s programs, and more inclusive research on the science of learning within the broader academic community.

The Research Question 

In line with NABU’s mission to solve the literacy crisis in developing countries by providing children’s books in mother tongue language – NABU’s inaugural research sprint asked:  Does access to mother tongue books increase reader engagement in Rwanda?

To begin to answer this question, book choices and engagement levels within the NABU reading app were tracked, and NABU’S Community Ambassador program in Rwanda was rapidly transformed into a team of data collectors, to survey a subset of our NABU readers. 

What did we learn?

While research is ongoing, early findings revealed the following key insights:

Key Insight #1

Survey respondents helped to contextualize these findings, by indicating that dual-language books help their children more easily learn to read and speak in English.

Key Insight #2

Not all users are consistently engaging with reading materials within the app despite studies have shown high levels of reading within the NABU App.

Driving up reading engagement plays a huge role in our NABU ecosystem.


Our ongoing research is assessing the effectiveness of alerts such as SMS, that are sent to users when new books are published on the NABU app. 

Our insights and survey findings lead us to follow-up research questions for the future related to home reading environments in Rwanda, which will be further explored by NABU in upcoming sprints. Some of the questions raised were regarding the age range of Rwandans beginning to read to children in their homes, as well as the role older siblings might be able to play in creating a “culture of reading” for younger siblings in the home.

Behind The Research: NABU’s “multiplying impact” Model

The fully de-identified data sets generated by NABU Learning Labs are being shared via an “open science” framework with leading academic researchers at New York University, Mount Sinai, and Social Creatures to multiply the impact of the findings beyond the walls of NABU: 

Dr. Natalie Brito of the Infant Studies of Language and Neurocognitive Development Lab at New York University

Dr. David Putrino and Dr. Jamie Wood of the Charles Lazarus Children’s Ability Center at Mount Sina

Dr. Rose Perry and the applied research team of Social Creatures

The exciting part about the NABU Learning Lab is that it is not only producing data-driven growth of NABU programming, but it also contributes to cross-cultural data on the science of reading to the broader academic community. 

The science of learning of child literacy is predominantly based upon data collected in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. These biased samples are restricting the field of child development’s understanding of trajectories and mechanisms of learning due to a lack of variability in social environments and home/caregiver characteristics.

NABU Learning Labs is helping to overcome these barriers by providing researchers with data from traditionally under-researched cultures that can be used to test their theories of learning.

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Stay tuned for our next research series and keep up to date with all of our exciting insights!