Talking Book

The Talking Book Technology

Talking Books are Powered with Commonly Available Batteries

The Talking Book device is a simple, durable, portable audio computer built to endure rough play, dust and rain storms.

Talking Books require two dry cell batteries, either the commonly available size-AA (small) or size-D (large). These batteries can be disposable (1.5V each) or rechargeable (typically 1.2V each).

1. Using Disposable Batteries

In most remote rural villages, cheap disposable batteries are available for sale at approximately $0.35/pair due to the demand to power flashlights and radios. The Talking Book was designed from the beginning to work with batteries commonly found in rural areas of developing countries. When Talking Books are used in small projects or when only used two or three hours per week (such as during group meetings), these batteries will usually be the most cost-effective option.

2. Using Rechargeable Batteries and Grid Electricity

For larger projects or when a Talking Book is used for eight or more hours per week (such as when rotating a Talking Book throughout households), use of rechargeable batteries is likely to be more cost-effective than disposable batteries and is also a better option for the environment. When grid electricity is available for recharging, the main cost is the batteries (typically $3-$4/pair, with a 2-3 year lifetime) and the community agent’s labor to continuously keep one set of batteries charged and ready for use.

3. Using Rechargeable Batteries and Solar Panels

For larger projects or those with high usage when grid electricity is not available, solar energy is recommended to recharge the batteries. This requires an appropriately sized solar panel to keep an extra set of batteries for all Talking Books continuously charged plus the cost of a community agent’s training and labor to maintain and use the solar panel properly.

Updating Talking Book Content via USB

Talking Books store audio recordings on an internal micro SD card – the same storage used for most phones and cameras. Our Talking Book Loader (TB Loader) software application updates Talking Books with content from any computer, tablet, or smartphone when connected to the Talking Book’s USB port.

The TB Loader, which runs on any Windows or Android device, performs two tasks: a) updates a Talking Book with the designated content package, and b) collects all user feedback recordings and usage statistics for later analysis. The TB Loader requires an Internet connection to download new content packages; but once it has the package, network connectivity is not required to update Talking Books.

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There are three operational methods of applying this technology. Each method requires a community volunteer or agent to keep Talking Books updated and accessible to the designated households.

1. Existing Visits to/from Communities

Some programs already include regular visits to the communities that will use Talking Books; other programs regularly gather community agents in a central location for training. In each case, Talking Books can be updated with little or no additional expense during the existing regular visit.

2. Equipping a Community Agent with a Smartphone

For communities within range of mobile data networks, equipping a community agent with an Android smartphone will usually be the next lowest cost option. Even when a community lacks access to electricity, a phone can be charged using solar or in a nearby town when power is needed to update Talking Books. Even communities just out of reach of a mobile data network may be able to use this option since traveling to a location to download new content would be required infrequently.

3. New Distribution via Staff on Motorbikes

If neither of the previous two options is available, the best alternative may be to establish regular visits to each community. For each new content distribution, a staff member would travel to each community to update all Talking Books in a one-hour visit (assuming coordination with each community’s agent).

What does the Talking Book do?

  • Plays audio lessons to develop skills & behaviors
    • songs, dramas, interviews, peer endorsements
  • Record spoken feedback
  • Gather usage statistics
  • Use local batteries

What are its key features?

  • On-Demand Availability
  • Low Cost
  • Simple to Use
  • Reliable and Durable

Who is the Talking Book for?

Those left out by other technology

  • Oral cultures / no literacy
  • No electricity
  • Unreliable/costly network
  • Limited access to phones

Literacy Bridge Ghana’s Talking Book Program

Improving the health and income of impoverished rural families through knowledge.

The Problem
Learning new health practices and agriculture techniques can drastically reduce poverty, malnutrition, and child mortality for hundreds of millions of people. But this vital knowledge is not reaching them due to illiteracy, lack of electricity, and lack of access to health and agriculture offices. Outreach to remote villages is costly and sporadic; people often forget what they have heard when it finally comes time to apply it—particularly when illiteracy prevents them from taking notes.

The Solution

Through our Talking Book Program, Literacy Bridge helps to improve the health and income of impoverished rural families by providing easy, on-demand access to locally relevant knowledge through the Talking Book Program. The Talking Book Program leverages existing community social networks and specially designed audio technology to deliver critical health and agriculture information to communities while building community capacity and strengthening existing health and agricultural extension systems.

The Talking Book device is a simple, durable, portable audio computer built to endure rough play, dust and rain storms.

Using the Talking Book device, our program allows your expertise to reach more people, more effectively, so they can learn and adopt practices to fight poverty and disease.

The Problem Talking Book Program is the Solution
Remote visits are expensive, and messages may be forgotten or distorted. The Talking Book Program provides communities with critical access to the exact messages you want to deliver via the Talking Book device.
Illiteracy prevents learning from text and taking notes. Talking Book audio messages are accessible regardless of literacy and are available on-demand.
Without feedback, messages cannot be improved to fit a community’s needs. The Talking Book Program provides quantitative and qualitative data to continually improve messages and the overall program.
Lack of access to electricity makes most technologies inappropriate. Talking Book devices operate on locally available batteries or rechargeable batteries.
Lack of education makes most technologies difficult to operate. Talking Book devices have been designed for simplicity; people without any formal education can operate them easily.
Numerous languages multiply communications costs. The Talking Book Program makes it easy to deliver multiple translations of messages to just the right communities.


“One of the great things about the Talking Book is the amount of maize its lessons enabled me to harvest this year. The same piece of land this year has produced over four times my normal yield.”

Felix Biriyeri, Farmer, Ving-Ving, Jirapa District, Upper West Region, Ghana

In a formal evaluation, we found that 91% of farmers apply the new practices learned through the Talking Book’s on-demand information. Early results of our health program suggest that 93% of women recall what they learn about each of five health behaviors (exclusive breastfeeding, use of ORS, handwashing with soap, use of a skilled attendant during childbirth and use of insecticide treated bednets) and 100% of women surveyed had implemented at least one of the five health behavior change messages.

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Let Us Help You Create Greater, More Cost-Effective Impact

Literacy Bridge can help improve the frequency and cost-effectiveness of your information delivery to people in rural, low‐literacy communities, helping to improve their health and agriculture productivity. Literacy Bridge Ghana will develop and maintain an individualized program that achieves your goals of information dissemination and impact. We offer the following services through a combination of short-term on-site consulting and long-term remote support.

Our primary services include:

Leasing of Talking Book hardware to suit your needs and project timeframe.

Providing technical support for the Talking Book hardware and supporting software services to help you manage, track, and evaluate the utilization of your program’s audio content.

Designing and developing engaging interviews, songs, stories, and dramas on health behaviors, agricultural practices or other critical information in the local languages.

Reporting and analysis on how messages are being used each quarter based on usage statistics, surveys, and recorded feedback.

We can also help your organization:

C:\Users\Emma\Desktop\Social Media Pics\FACEBOOK SM.jpgDetermine existing knowledge gaps and current practices of target communities to inform content needs and program strategy, based upon your goals and the community’s needs.

Hire local community agents and work with local opinion leaders to ensure the Talking Book Program is relevant and effective in each community.

Manage ongoing program operations to continually deliver new content.

Our Experience

We have been solving these problems since 2007.

Our customers have included Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, VSO, Winrock, World Education.

We have run every aspect of comprehensive health and agriculture education programs serving as many as 40,000 people with eight content updates per year. We have integrated our program into group meetings, but we also have designed a household rotation program.

“There were so many things we didn’t know about raising healthy children, but due to the Talking Book, we listen and learn healthy ways to raise our children”

Kuubataanono Nadowli, Ghana

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