Beyond ABCs: Technology and Early Literacy

Digital technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, influencing everything from entertainment and communication to education. When it comes to supporting early literacy skills, navigating how technology and digital content can either enhance or hinder pre-reading skills can be challenging. Parents are bombarded with mixed messages about the appropriate amount of screen time for young children. The encouraging news is that digital content can serve as a valuable tool for fostering early literacy and digital skills, provided it is used strategically. In this blog post, we will explore the role of technology in early literacy and offer recommendations for exceptional digital resources and apps that can support children's literacy development.

Use digital technology together

Digital technology is most effective when it complements and enriches early literacy experiences rather than replacing them. Similar to all early literacy interactions, children benefit most from engaging with a caring parent. The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Media and Young Minds that parents engage with digital media alongside their young children. Toddlers learn best with adult interaction, while preschoolers benefit from enhanced learning, increased interaction and limit setting when a parent is involved in digital content use. (CITATION Media and Young Minds | Pediatrics | American Academy of Pediatrics ( For example, interactive e-books offer a wonderful opportunity to discover new stories, but akin to traditional picture books, the experience is most enriching when parents and children read and discuss the material together. Whether you’re using digital or analogue resources, engaging together supports children’s comprehension, critical thinking and social-emotional development.

Evaluate digital resources

Evaluating digital resources your child uses helps ensure their quality.  Look for resources like apps, videos and websites that:

  • Are developmentally appropriate for your young child: Take a look at whether the resource fits your child’s age and skill level. Would it be engaging for your child? If there are interactive elements, can your child participate in them? Will it be easy for your child to use?
  • Have positive reviews from trusted sources: Digital content is reviewed just like other sources. Reviews are a great way to assess if a digital resource might be useful for your child.

Discover great digital content

  • Interactive E-books: These e-books incorporate features like animations, sound effects and touch-screen interactions, resulting in a captivating reading experience for children. Seek out e-books with read-aloud capabilities, allowing children to follow along as a narrator reads. Tumble Books and Kanopy Kids have collections of read-along storybooks and story times.
  • EPL iPads: All EPL locations provide iPads preloaded with early literacy apps that our staff has thoughtfully curated. These apps have been selected for their excellent design, engagement value, ease of use and appropriateness for children aged two to five. A complete list of apps featured on our iPads is accessible here: 2022-04-28-Early-Literacy-iPad-Descriptions.pdf (
  • Phonics and Sight Word Apps: There are numerous apps available that focus on phonics instruction and sight word recognition, which are fundamental skills for early literacy. These apps often use gamification elements to make learning engaging and fun for children. Examples of phonics and sight word apps include Teach Your Monster to Read, Secret Sight Words, Khan Academy Kids and Sight Words & Phonics Reading.
  • Writing and Creativity Tools: Technology can also support children's emergent writing skills. Look for apps that provide opportunities for children to practice writing letters and words, trace letters and engage in creative writing activities. Some notable apps in this category include Writing Wizard, I Write Words and Toca Life: World.
  • Educational Websites: Websites dedicated to early literacy offer a wide range of interactive activities, games and resources for children. These websites often cover various aspects of literacy, including phonics, vocabulary development and reading comprehension. Consider exploring ABCmouse, PBS Kids and Starfall for a diverse collection of educational materials. EPL also has free databases for age appropriateness, individual appropriateness and cultural appropriateness including Early Learning by World Book | Home (

Use a balanced approach

Although technology serves as a valuable tool, striking a balance between digital and non-digital literacy experiences is crucial. Unstructured and social (non-digital) play remains the best method for children to acquire skills such as emotional regulation, impulse control and flexible thinking—skills that pave the way for school readiness (CITATION Media and Young Minds | Pediatrics | American Academy of Pediatrics ( ) Encourage a mix of screen-based and traditional activities, such as reading physical books, engaging in imaginative play and participating in conversations that promote language development.In the final blog post of this series, we will discuss how parents can evaluate early literacy programs to ensure they meet the needs of their children. Stay tuned for practical tips and insights on choosing the right program to support your child's literacy journey!

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