Two Teams Tie for Grand Prize in $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE

Winning Apps Demonstrate Increases in Literacy Skills Among
Participating Adult Learners After 12 Months of Use

MIAMI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–XPRIZE, in partnership with the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family
Literacy and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, today announced two
grand prize winners of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE, a multi-year,
multi-phase competition focused on transforming the lives of
low-literate adults across the nation.

Launched on former first lady Barbara Bush’s 90th birthday in
2015, the $7M
Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE
presented by the
Dollar General Literacy Foundation challenges teams to develop mobile
applications for smartphones that increase literacy skills among
participating adult learners. With research showing that 77
percent of Americans now own a smartphone
, the competition aims to
dramatically change the way the United States meets the needs of the 36
million adults with low literacy skills, by tackling the largest
obstacles to achieving basic literacy – access, retention and scale.

Former Governor Jeb Bush asked XPRIZE, the leader in designing and
operating global competitions to solve humanity’s greatest challenges,
to help create a competition to tackle the largest obstacles to adults
achieving basic literacy.

“Mom and I shared the belief that literacy is the gateway to live a life
of purpose. Just imagine trying to find a job, get a driver’s license,
or understand your child’s report card without the ability to read and
write,” said Gov. Bush, former Barbara Bush Foundation board member. “We
launched this project to leverage the power of competition to infuse
innovation and fresh ideas into the adult literacy landscape.”

Grand prize winners, Learning Upgrade and People ForWords, will divide a
$3 million purse, while each also receiving a $1 million achievement
prize, for having the best performance in two key demographic groups:
native English speakers and English language learners.

A panel of independent, expert judges determined grand prize winners
after their apps generated the greatest gains between a pre- and
post-test, which were administered approximately one year apart to
learners in a 12-month field test in Los Angeles, Dallas and
Philadelphia. After careful review of overall student achievement among
both native English speakers and English language learners who initially
were reading English at a third-grade level or below, the judges
declared a tie between the two top performing apps:

  • Learning
     (San Diego, California) – Led by Vinod
    Lobo, the team helps students learn English and math “the fun way”
    through songs, video, games and rewards. The app is available on both Android
    and iOS
    devices at no cost.
  • People
     (Dallas, Texas) – Led by Southern
    Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education and Human
    Development, in collaboration with SMU’s Guildhall and Literacy
    Instruction for Texas, the People ForWords team has developed “Codex:
    Lost Words of Atlantis,” a mobile game based on an archeological
    adventure storyline to help adult learners improve their English
    reading skills. The app is currently available on Android
    devices at no cost.

“We believe the ability to read proficiently and a basic education are
fundamental to a person’s success in society. When we helped launch the
Adult Literacy XPRIZE, we hoped to find a way to eliminate barriers and
help create equal access to educational instruction for all
individuals,” said Denine Torr of the Dollar General Literacy
Foundation. “We are excited about the impact these innovative,
award-winning apps will have on reducing literacy program waiting lists
while increasing their capacity to serve and reach students during times
that fit within their busy lives.”

Jeb Bush, together with Denine Torr of the Dollar General Literacy
Foundation and XPRIZE board member Amir Ansari, announced the grand
prize winners at the Barbara Bush Foundation’s Florida Celebration of
Reading in Miami. The event also celebrated the legacy of Mrs. Bush and
featured guest speakers including humorist Dave Barry, the #1 New
York Times
bestselling author Brad Meltzer and Susan Page,
Washington bureau chief for USA TODAY.

The second phase of the initiative is the upcoming $1 million Barbara
Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition, a
15-month competition for organizations, communities and individuals to
recruit adult learners to download and use the apps developed by the two
grand prize-winning teams along with the following two finalist teams:

  • AmritaCREATE,
    Amrita University (Amritapuri, Kerala, India)
     – Inspired by Amrita
    University’s Chancellor AMMA and led by Dr. Prema Nedungadi, this team
    of educators and developers has created a personalized learning app
    along with engaging, culturally appropriate e-content linked to life
    skills. The app is currently available on Android
    and iOS devices at no cost.
  • Cell-Ed (Oakland,
     – Led by Dr. Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami, this team
    brings more than 20 years of EdTech experience with low income,
    low-literate adults in the U.S. and worldwide by offering on-demand
    essential skills, micro-lessons and personalized coaching on any
    mobile device, without internet.

Along with Learning Upgrade and People ForWords, AmritaCREATE and
Cell-Ed will each receive $125,000 for their participation in the
Communities Competition.

“XPRIZE is a powerful platform for impact, and we’re so proud of have
been a part of this historic effort to empower adults to take their
learning into their own hands,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE.
“Through all their efforts and creativity, Learning Upgrade, People
ForWords and all of the competing teams have done remarkable work in
supporting adult literacy, and are proof that innovation and competition
can help solve some of the greatest challenges of our time.”

In the Communities Competition, a total of $1 million will be awarded,
with $500,000 available for teams who submit the most innovative,
feasible and scalable plans, and $500,000 for teams who recruit the most
adult learners to download and consistently use the learning apps.

“For 30 years, the Barbara Bush Foundation has played a leadership role
in the field of adult and family literacy,” said British A. Robinson,
President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
“The Adult Literacy XPRIZE celebrates the enduring legacy of Barbara
Bush and the Foundation’s commitment to ending the epidemic of low
literacy in the United States.”

For more information about the winning teams and the Communities
Competition, visit and


XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and
implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest
challenges. Active competitions include the Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG
COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $10M ANA
Avatar XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara
Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, and the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE.
For more information, visit

About Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s
leading advocate for family literacy for three decades. The Foundation
was established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, inspired by
her vision of fostering the opportunity for every man, woman, and child
to secure a better life through literacy. Today, the Foundation is a
public charity that remains committed to Mrs. Bush’s vision, providing
innovative programs and services to ensure that every American has the
opportunity to learn to read and write. To learn more, visit

About Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives
that help others improve their lives through literacy and education.
Since its inception in 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than $160
million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 10
million individuals take their first steps toward literacy, a general
education diploma or English proficiency. To learn more about the Dollar
General Literacy Foundation, visit


Media Contact:
XPRIZE Communications
Eric Desatnik

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