The ALECTOR Project is funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR), from 2017 to 2020. It’s goal is to develop and to test resources and a web-based application that make it possible to propose simplified texts for children who face major problems in reading and understanding written texts. For these children, text simplification might be a powerful and possibly the only way to leverage document accessibility. The idea is not to impoverish written language but to propose simplified versions of a given text that convey the exact same meaning. The core hypothesis is that the simplification of a text will allow children with reading difficulties to eventually get through a text and thus discover the pleasure of reading through understanding what they actually read. This will allow them to enter a virtuous circle, whereby word recognition and decoding skills are trained through reading more. The promise of this enterprise is that training children on simpler texts will lower their give-up threshold and improve their decoding, word recognition and comprehension skills, which ultimately would allow them to move on to more complex texts.
The ALECTOR project will address scientific issues including (a) readability assessment (identifying the complex elements of a text that make it hard to understand and read at an optimal speed), (b) lexical simplification (replacing the complex lexical units detected with simpler equivalents, while dealing with polysemy and multiwords expressions), (c) syntactic simplification (replacing complex sentences with shorter ones, avoiding subordinations, passive voices, parenthetical explanations, etc.), and (d) discourse transformations (replacing pronouns with their antecedents). The main innovative aspect is that the system will be tailored to dyslexic and poor readers: text transformations will be based on theoretical findings about the reading process and further refined by specific adaptations leveraging the feedback from the targeted audience. As one of the key innovative deliverables, ALECTOR will propose a web-based application where simplified corpus will be available to teachers and speech therapists.