Rethink Reading for a Digital Age: Human-Powered and Tech-Assisted

WASHINGTON, DC, October 1, 2015 – With young children gaining access to a dizzying array of games, videos, and other digital media, will they ever learn to read? The answer is yes—if they are surrounded by adults who know how to help and introduced to media designed to promote literacy instead of undermining it.

That is the message of a path breaking new book, Tap, Click, Read, which tackles the quiet crisis of literacy in the United States, where more than two-thirds of American fourth graders are not reading at grade level. The authors are leading early education experts, Lisa Guernsey, Director of Early Education Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project at the New America, and Michael H. Levine, Founding Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Tap, Click, Read, published by Jossey-Bass, will be in-stores and available online October 1, 2015.  Advance praise for the book from leading researchers, policymakers and technology experts can be accessed here.

With stories from homes, classrooms and cutting edge tech labs, accessible translation of new research, and a series of video vignettes, Guernsey and Levine recognize the significant role that digital media is now playing in children’s lives, starting in their very first years of life. Providing a plan for modernizing the way educators and parents teach literacy, Tap, Click, Read details the science of learning; presents new research on e-books and apps; and the outlines the importance of “learning together” moments.

“America’s approach to early literacy development is trapped in a time warp where proven best practices are often ignored and new innovation is relatively rare. We cannot allow technology to widen the learning gaps that are already so harmful in our country,” said Michael H. Levine. “There are more high quality digital educational resources available to children today than at any other time in human history—we must mobilize communities to use them to help all kids.”

Tap, Click, Read and its companion website ( provide vital resources and research to help parents, schools and community organizations navigate this new world of literacy. Tap, Click, Read includes an analysis of the exploding app marketplace and provides useful information on review sites and tools to assess product quality. The book shows what to avoid and what to demand in today’s apps and e-books—as well as what to seek in community preschools, elementary schools and libraries. Peppered with the latest research from fields as diverse as neuroscience and behavioral economics and richly documented examples of best practices from schools and early childhood programs around the country, Tap, Click, Read shows how to:

  • Promote the adult-child interactions that help kids grow into strong readers
  • Use digital media to build a foundation for reading and success
  • Discover new tools that open up avenues for creativity, critical thinking, and knowledge-building that today’s children need

“We envision a future called Readialand,” Lisa Guernsey said, “where educators and parents integrate reading and digital media to bring knowledge, skills, and critical thinking to all of America’s kids. The goal of ‘Readialand’ is to deliver the same 21st-century literacy opportunities, already at the fingertips of today’s affluent families, to low-income and in-need families.”

The research behind the book was sparked by The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national network of more than 150 cities focused on improving literacy in their communities, and was funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative. All royalties from book sales will be returned to New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center to sustain their programs focused on expanding access to learning for all children.


About Lisa Guernsey (Washington, DC)  

Lisa Guernsey is director of the Early Education Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project in the Education Policy Program at New America, a think tank in Washington, DC. She leads teams of writers and analysts to tell stories, examine policies and generate ideas for new approaches to help disadvantaged students succeed. Prior to her work at New America, Guernsey worked as a staff writer at The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has also contributed to several national publications, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Slate, and USA TODAY.  She is the author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child (Basic Books, 2012). Lisa lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her two daughters.


About Michael H. Levine, Ph.D. (New York, NY)

Michael H. Levine is founding director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, an independent nonprofit that conducts research and builds partnerships to scale innovation and investment in promising educational media technologies for underserved children. An active voice on policy reforms, Levine is a frequent advisor to the White House and U.S. Department of Education; and served as an advisor to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Named by Working Mother magazine as one of America’s most influential leaders in family and children’s policy, Levine writes a regular column for Huffington Post and appears frequently in the media. Previously he held senior positions with the Asia Society, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the office of the New York City Schools Chancellor. Levine and family live in Teaneck, New Jersey.

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