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The (Digital) Winds of Change

I recently re-read (or should I say listened to the audio book) of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The story was published in 1960 but was set in 1936. Somewhere in the first few chapters, Scout had just begun school and her teacher was not impressed that she already knew how to read. Miss Caroline scolded Scout saying,

"Now you tell your father not to teach you anymore. It's best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I'll take over from here and try to undo the damage."

Boy have times changed. In the 1960s, research was just beginning to show that children learned a great before they entered first grade. At that time, public education often began with first grade, while kindergarten was an option often available to children enrolled in private school. Sesame Street debuted in 1969, at a time when television began captivating young audiences, offering the perfect blend of experimentation and research to bring educational learning opportunities to the masses (Davis, 2009).

Source: The American Library Association

In the 1980s, Reading Rainbow introduced kids to the love of reading. If you open a book or an e-book, the power to transport you anywhere or inspire you to be anything is always a possibility. Parents, caregivers, grandparents, cousins, siblings, teachers, babysitters, you name it, all play a role in building these early reading opportunities for kids. When children and parents (or any other person involved in the child’s life for that matter) read books together and talk about the story, kids learn important literacy and language skills (Hindman, Skibbe, & Foster, 2014). This is known as shared book reading.

Today, we have countless opportunities for children to engage in educational opportunities involving media, both traditional and digital forms. From picture books to singing along to favorite songs to using apps, opportunities to foster meaningful learning involving media are all around. A whole new world of children’s programming is available via PBS designed to empower young readers (Super Why, Between the Lions, Word World, and Martha Speaks).

A study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center surveyed literacy skills within top educational apps, in both the Apple App Store and Google Play (Guernsey, Levine, Chiong, & Severns, 2014). Researchers found that a majority of children’s educational apps with a literacy emphasis, focused on basic literacy skills (e.g., letters and sounds, phonics with word recognition) instead of more advanced skills (e.g., ability to understand and tell stories, vocabulary, comprehension, sight words, spelling, letter writing, grammar, etc.). Parents play an important role in selecting media content that is meaningful to their child’s interests and skills. More importantly, parents and caregivers who participate in the learning experience help early learners connect media content to their daily life and tackle content that may be too difficult.

Educators value, welcome, and encourage parents who foster meaningful reading and learning experiences. It’s never too early or too late to pick up a book or literacy activity to enjoy with the children in your life.

Read on and have fun!


Lee, Harper. (1960). To Kill a Mockingbird. J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia.

Davis, Michael. (2009). Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. Viking Books:

Guernsey, L., Levine, M. H., Chiong, C., & Severns, M. (2014). Pioneering literacy in the digital wild west: Empowering parents and educators. Retrieved from

Hindman, A. H., Skibbe, L., & Foster, T. D. (2014). Exploring the variety of parental talk during shared book reading and its contributions to preschool language and literacy: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort. Reading and Writing, 27(2), 287-313. doi:10.1007/s11145-013-9445-4

#sesamestreet #literacy #television #parents #mediahistory #readingrainbow #pbs

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