About us

READ Alliance is an initiative supported by USAID and implemented by Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) with an aim to spur an early grade reading movement in India by fostering and supporting new approaches and innovative reading solutions that offer to solve the reading challenge in India.

We at the READ Alliance pursue a bold new approach to partnerships and innovation which can bring about developmental changes to enhance early childhood reading. Through our multi-stakeholder platform, we foster and support innovation-driven and user-centric approaches to unlock a child’s reading potential. We aim to stimulate increased attention, resources, and efforts to improve the reading skills of Indian primary school age children over the next five years and deepen the culture of reading in India. Through the two rounds of Early Grade Reading Innovation Challenges held in 2014 and 2015, READ Alliance is supporting six organizations that will impact the reading skills of more than 100,000 under-served school children living in the tribal districts of Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.

Who we are

Meet the core team of READ Alliance, the foot soldiers behind the program. Their enthusiasm and determination to address this grave issue of early grade reading across the country has been an instrumental force in making huge strides to look for solutions and their appropriate implementation to get desired results.

  • Dr. Aditya Dev Sood
  • Nidhi Singh
  • Kumar Vikash – Finance
  • Sahdev Pawar
  • Prapti Adhikari
  • Puneet Dhillon
  • Manika Rana
  • Yasser Ammar Naqvi

Dr. Aditya Dev Sood

Founder and CEO, Center for Knowledge Societies

Dr. Aditya Dev Sood is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS), an innovation consulting firm based in India, which focuses on user research, user experience design, design strategy and innovation management. He is a serial social entrepreneur with a background in Design and the Social Sciences. He is a former Fulbright Scholar with two doctorates from the University of Chicago. In addition to his work on the READ Alliance, he has built several different kinds of organizations, all of which are co-located at the Vihara Innovation Campus in New Delhi.

Nidhi Singh

Project Director

Nidhi Singh heads READ Alliance at Center for Knowledge Societies aimed to promote early grade reading innovations in India. She has worked in key projects in rural water and sanitation, sustainable livelihoods and value chains, rural retail and maternal and child health in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Prior to joining READ, she was heading the Reform in School Education (RISE) program at Villgro, working directly with the state government and large funders in implementing a whole school partnership model in government schools. She has also worked with Ark India where she led setting up of 2 partnership schools under the School Quality Enhancement Programme (SQEP). Before completing her MBA at Bristol Business School at the University of the West of England (UK), she was running a social enterprise which worked on the concepts of fair trade with rural artisans and underprivileged women in urban slums. Nidhi has a passion for areas such as gender, poverty alleviation, livelihoods, and education.

Kumar Vikash

Finance Operation Manager

With over fourteen years of financial and grants management experience in the development sector, his key work areas are fund management, implementing financial, budgeting, administration, accounting and project related procurement systems to ensure a transparent financial system.

Sahdev Pawar

Program Officer

Sahdev has worked in the areas of designing , monitoring and evaluating different reading implementation programs. His main expertise lies in conducting training, building capacities of field staff, developing hindi language curriculum along with other related teaching learning materials for primary school grades children.

Prapti Adhikari

Monitoring & Evaluation Officer

An M&E professional, she currently heads the monitoring and evaluation wing at READ Alliance. She aspires to educate the Himalayan kids in Nepal and India. She is an International Relations Graduate with a background of Development Studies. During her free time, she explores art and words.

Puneet Dhillon

Knowledge and Communications Officer

Puneet is a marketing communications strategist with over 4 years of experience in both the for profit and nonprofit sectors. Her strengths lie in helping brands uncover, create and amplify their story, set up and manage social media accounts and conduct goal-oriented online and offline brand awareness. She handles the content, communications, social media and branding @ READ Alliance.

Manika Rana

Content Writer

Manika Rana has a BSc in Biomedical Science from the Royal Holloway, University of London and MSc in International Health Management from Imperial College London. She has worked in the healthcare domain for more than a year with specific focus on developing strategy for behavior change communication. She supports in knowledge and content creation in the READ Alliance project.

Yasser Ammar Naqvi

Education Partnerships Officer

A student of Economics and English Literature, Yasser has an M.Phil in Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia. With partnerships experience, in; startups and development sector, Yasser’s key strengths are uncovering innovative and impact based partnership opportunities and driving mutually beneficial alliances. He is interested in politics and enjoys reading, writing songs and short stories.


Reading during the early juncture of life enhances and stimulates intellectual development, harbouring scholastic achievements for all round development in a child. The ASER 2014 shows that only 48.1% of children in Grade 5 can read text from Grade 2 level and almost 40% of children in Grade 3 still cannot read simple words. The challenge is to develop reading skills as well as interest, and to understand that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Seven Steps to Reading

A framework that breaks down this challenge to define its contours, so that we may develop viable, sustainable solutions to address each of its components.

Step 1. A nurturing, stimulating learning environment in the child’s early years.

  • Necessary Learning Interaction. In the early years of life, the child needs to be raised in a nurturing, stimulating and caring environment.
  • Explication of Necessity. The quality of childcare and stimulation in the early years directly affects the child’s imagination, curiosity, and language processing skills. Early intervention, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, is essential to address early reading deficiencies.
  • System Conditions. Parental illiteracy combined with socioeconomic deprivation result in parents being unable to provide a caring, nurturing environment to the young child. For poorer parents, access to childcare facilities is limited to state-run creches and Anganwadi centres, which are inadequate in number. For children who do have access to childcare facilities, the quality of care is inadequate. Anganwadi centres and creches focus more on child health care, and not on the cognitive and linguistic development of the child.

Step 2. Exposure to reading material and demonstrations of reading behaviours at early stages.

  • Necessary Learning Interaction. The child needs access and exposure to and demonstration of reading and stimulating visual materials including books, electronic media and environmental print during the early language.
  • Explication of Necessity. At the pre-reading stage, the child requires access to visually stimulating literacy material as well as examples of reading demonstrated by adults. These allow a child to intuitively understand concepts of print such as directionality of script, holding a book, visual representation of sounds, and so on. The literacy levels of relevant others such as parents, especially mothers, have a direct impact on the literacy and academic performance of the child.
  • System Conditions. Illiteracy among adults is a factor that contributes to the poor development of basic literacy concepts among preschool age children. Children from economically weaker households do not have access to pre-primary schooling, which impacts their language and reading skills during formal schooling. Outside the home, communities lack resources such as libraries or media centres for introducing children and parents to early concepts of literacy. The problem of finding appropriate literacy materials in the community or the general environment of the child becomes more acute in hard to reach and remote areas

Step 3. Skilled guidance and supportive environment for basic readers.

  • Necessary Learning Interaction. The child needs to receive skilled guidance within a supportive, encouraging environment to develop basic reading skills ranging from phonemic association to syntactical awareness, semantics, and comprehension.
  • Explication of Necessity. Developing proficiency in the oral and aural aspects of a language is an organic, natural process, unlike acquiring basic reading skills in the language. For a child to acquire basic reading skills that allow her or him to string together characters, words and ultimately sentences to create meaning from text, she or he requires careful, skilled guidance and a supportive, encouraging environment.
  • System Conditions. There is a lack of importance given to the teaching of reading in schools. This is reflected in the lack of a dedicated reading program in teacher training as well as the paltry amount of time dedicated to language teaching in schools. In schools, teacher-student interaction, important for the acquisition of basic and proficient reading skills, is impacted by various issues such as a high pupil-teacher ratio and teacher responsibilities including managing multi-grade classrooms. Also, schools are often focused on completing prescribed syllabi, leaving little room to focus on the disparate skill levels and needs of children.

Step 4. Practice and reinforcement of skills through continued learning.

  • Necessary Learning Interaction. Literacy skills already acquired by the child need to be reinforced through practice and continued learning.
  • Explication of Necessity. Core literacy and reading skills will be lost if they are not reinforced continuously over several years of a reader’s early childhood. Seen in the context of school dropouts and out of school children, this poses a challenge in the retention and development of reading skills.
  • System Conditions. Certain populations of children, such as street children, working children, and girls, are less likely to be enrolled in formal schools. There are few provisions for non-formal schooling or reading programs for children who are not in school. Bridge programs exist for children who are dropouts or long term absentees, but these are few in number and often insufficient to prepare the child to return to her or his age-appropriate grade.

Step 5. Encouragement and guidance to help the child derive meaning from text.

  • Necessary Learning Interaction. The child requires instruction and opportunity to engage in deeper interpretations of read material including literary, analytical and logical interpretations of the text.
  • Explication of Necessity. Tapping into the child’s prior knowledge is essential for him or her to go beyond literal interpretations of the text. This also allows the child to build a sense of identity and confidence, promoting individual interpretations of read material. However, teachers do not often explain the meaning of the text, which results in stunted reading comprehension skills.
  • System Conditions. High student-teacher ratio and varying levels of skills in the same classroom negatively impact the teacher-student interaction. In most classrooms, teacher- student interaction is unidirectional, with children not encouraged to develop and express their interpretations of the reading material beyond the requirements of the syllabus. Children are rarely encouraged to understand read material beyond what is required as answers to textbook questions. Relating texts to the sociocultural interactions of the child does not take place, limiting the child’s motivation and ability to achieve deeper interpretation of texts and involvement in reading.

Step 6. Variety of stimulating reading material to develop proficiency in reading.

  • Necessary Learning Interaction. The child at the stages of basic and proficient reading, needs access to a variety of stimulating texts on various subjects and in a range of formats.
  • Explication of Necessity. A child at the basic and proficient reading stages requires access to a variety of stimulating reading materials in a range of formats and subjects. This helps the child build interest as well as fluency in reading, eventually leading her or him to view reading as a cognitively pleasurable activity, and not just a skill.
  • System Conditions. Making extra-curricular reading material such as books, computers, etc., available to children and encouraging them to access it is uncommon in schools as well as community spaces including homes.

Step 7. Access to a cross-generational and peer group based culture of reading.

  • Necessary Learning Interaction. It is essential for the child to have access to and participate in a community of reading, either through her or his peer group or across generations.
  • Explication of Necessity. To develop reading as a skill and as a behaviour, especially among children from disadvantaged and oral culture communities, children need to have access to peers and family members who indulge in and encourage reading and other literary activities. Social interactions around reading can eventually translate into a culture of reading.
  • System Conditions. Given the proportion of illiterate adults in the country, there is a dire need for community-based reading and language resources and programs that promote adult and child reading. There is also an insufficient immediate incentive for parents from lower-income households to encourage children to read rather than to contribute to economic and domestic requirements.

Our Advisors

READ Alliance is fortunate to have a strong support system of mentors, advisors who bring forth rich expertise and years of superior governance.

Jason Singer

Director, Office of Partnerships for Innovation, USAID

Jason Singer is a career Foreign Service Officer with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He has held positions with the U.S.Treasury Department; the National Security Council; the African Development Bank; and in management consulting and investment banking. He holds a B.S. in International Politics from Georgetown University and an M.A. with Distinction from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Dr. Aditya Dev Sood

Founder and CEO, Center for Knowledge Societies

Dr. Aditya Dev Sood is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS), an innovation consulting firm based in India, which focuses on user research, user experience design, design strategy and innovation management. He is a serial social entrepreneur with a background in Design and the Social Sciences. He is a former Fulbright Scholar with two doctorates from the University of Chicago. In addition to his work on the READ Alliance, he has built several different kinds of organizations, all of which are co-located at the Vihara Innovation Campus in New Delhi.

Toby Linden

Lead Education Specialist, World Bank

Toby Linden is Lead Education Specialist at the World Bank and works in the education group that provides policy reform in developing countries. Prior to joining the World Bank in 1998, Mr Linden was a policy analyst and program administrator for the Department of Education and Skills in the United Kingdom. His widespread experience and knowledge has been crucial for upscaling projects and building a wider outreach.

Dr.Shailaja Menon

Dr.Shailaja Menon is a faculty at Azim Premji University where her area of research and teaching is Language and Literacy. She has also been leading Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language programs at Jones International University in the United States. Her interest areas are: how children learn to read and write in Indian languages, how teachers learn to teach literacy, language and diversity in multilingual settings. The crux of her research is what makes us understand the drawbacks of the primary education system in India.

Prof. Venita Kaul

Former Director, CECED, Ambedkar University

Dr.Venita Kaul is the former Director at Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University. Her doctorate from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi in 1981 focused on “Strengths of Disadvantaged children” which subscribed to the ‘difference’ rather than the ‘deficit’ approach to the study of children in difficult circumstances. Some of her current research interests are Early Education and Curricula; Teacher Education and Teachers’ Perceptions and Experiences; Parenting and children’s development; Development of Children’s communication and expression and Transition challenges at the early primary stage of education.


Our partners come from diverse areas of work and expertise, ranging from the corporate, multilateral agencies, media houses to not for profits operating on the ground. This diversity leads to the realization of one of the most important objectives i.e. to find innovative ways of pooling resources and talents based on each partner’s core strengths.

READ Alliance Partnership Network (RAPN) invites partners and collaborators whose collective participation can drive radical changes in early grade reading outcomes across India. Organizations can partner with us in various capacities such as:

  • Asset partners who contribute capital, services or infrastructure, including technology platforms, physical and virtual infrastructure.
  • Knowledge partners who can either share knowledge artefacts from their experience or co-create knowledge materials that might address different issues related to the field of early grade reading.
  • Innovation and implementation partners can provide basic established infrastructure, personnel, strategic recommendations and on ground monitoring and evaluation, all pertaining to support and assessment of innovation projects.
  • Communication and advocacy partners who play a major role in spreading knowledge and awareness to new partners, unidentified beneficiaries and the general public.