It all starts with Literacy.

“Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens”


Earlier this month, Lisa Guernsey of New America and Michael H. Levine of Joan Ganz Cooney Center/Sesame Workshop released their new book Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens. Lisa and Michael are both well-versed in education in our digital age, and we interviewed them to find out more about how we can use technology as a resource and best equip ourselves and our communities to help children learn to read.

1) Your new book Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens, was released this month. What is the big message in the book?

This book maps out a modern approach to helping children learn, with a particular emphasis on learning to read. We avoid the tired nagging of “no screen time” and the overheated enthusiasm over apps as the holy grail of early education. Instead we suggest a “third way.” Our aim is to ensure that all children, regardless of their parents’ income, will gain the skills of 21st century literacy that come from the combination of parents, educators, and high-quality media. 
2) Why are you passionate about reading and technology?

We wrote the book because ​an alarming number of children in the United States never become good readers. More than two-thirds of American fourth graders are not reading at grade level or “proficiently,” according to the Nation’s Report card. For children in low-income families and children of color, the numbers are even worse: more than 80 percent are not hitting the proficient mark. Despite billions of dollars of interventions and new programs, that percentage has barely budged for more than two decades. That, to us, is a crisis.

To address this crisis, we need a third-way approach that recognizes the power of parents, educators, and media in combination with each other. In the book, we sum this up in four key steps:
● invest in early childhood from birth through age 8,
● address the lack of broadband Internet and other 21st-century learning opportunities offered to families,
● scale up effective tech-assisted programs that activate educators and communities; and
● Recognize and build upon the assets (such as dual-language learning) and rich cultural knowledge inherent in the United States’ diversity.

We also use video and storytelling (see examples at to demonstrate concrete examples of what parents, educators, and communities can do.
3) What can we do as nonprofits and as a society to help low-income children and families access necessary literacy resources?

We call for community leaders and institutions to be proactive in supporting and demanding environments for children that provide literacy opportunities all around them, even in their earliest years of life. The book describes a vision for a merging of media and reading, which we call “readia.” All children in the 21st century—not just the affluent—need and deserve access to an ecosystem, we call it “Readialand”, in which they have opportunities for literacy learning everywhere they look. To make this happen, we will all need to advocate for better resources and environments for literacy learning. Push for a Readialand in your city, school district, and neighborhood by bringing equity issues to the attention of your administrators, school board, and state leaders.

4) How does IFL’s TutorMate program support literacy proficiency?

We were so impressed with the way TutorMate combines tech enhancements (such as highlighted text and dialogic questions in its reading software) with the power of children having regular one-on-one time with caring, well-trained adults. We feature TutorMate in the book, and profile the program in one of our five video vignettes.

5) Is there anything else you would like to share? 
We are at a pivotal moment for helping educators and parents to see their power in supporting children’s literacy for the 21st century. We encourage them to adopt a tap-click-read mind-set toward their students’ literacy learning: Tap into learning networks and tap open new media opportunities for them. Click into resources for parenting and teaching while recognizing that the clicks of children are actions emanating from their own curiosities; help steer their desire for interactivity toward materials that help them learn. And hold dear the act of reading and the importance of helping students become literate in multiple ways.

You can buy Tap, Click, Read here and can find out more about the concepts behind the book here.


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