3rd Grade Reading Success Matters

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

New Report Explores the “Digital Wild West”


Every month, dozens of new digital apps, e-books and technology-based programs emerge, promising to turn young children into strong readers. But how many of these products and programs were developed with input in early childhood experts? And how many deliver on what they promise?

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading asked experts at the New America Foundation and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop to assess the state of the market. What they found was a “digital wild West” that leaves parents and educators unclear what works and how to use it. The report, Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators, examined 137 products and found:

  • More than 80 percent of the top-selling apps in the iTunes App Store’s Education Category target children, and 72 percent of those target preschoolers.
  • Of the iTunes most popular paid literacy apps, 45 percent targeted letters and sounds and half targeted phonics, but only 5 percent targeted vocabulary.  None focused on comprehension, grammar and the ability to understand and tell stories.
  • Electronic literacy games on such platforms as Nintendo, Wii and Leapster focus most often on letters, sounds, phonics and word recognition. None of the games reviewed emphasized letter writing, sight-word recognition or comprehension
  • Children’s e-books, an exploding market that went from $7 million to $19.3 million in a single year, offered such features as optional narration, embedded games and sounds. But it’s unclear how many of these features actually enhance literacy and learning.

In addition to products, the report looks at several nascent but promising initiatives in early childhood and elementary school programs that have taken different approaches to technology, harnessing its power to assist teachers and parents in helping children learn to read.

To learn more about the programs and the report’s findings or to view a webinar, click here.

To read a blog post from report author Lisa Guernsey of the New America Foundation, click here.