Designing Digital Early Literacy Tools at Scale: The Struggle is Real

June 1, 2019

Reach Every Reader Post-Doctoral Fellow Melissa Callaghan discusses Designing Digital Early Literacy Tools at Scale: The Struggle is Real at the 2019 Society for Community Research and Action Biennial Conference in Chicago, IL.


Children’s development of literacy knowledge, skills, and interest is strongly shaped by their ecosystem of reading resources, education systems, and adult support. Unfortunately, over half of US children are not fluent readers by the end of 3rd grade. Harvard, MIT, and FSU have banded together to simultaneously design conversation-based game apps, an adaptive digital literacy screener, a personalized reading intervention, and virtual reality teaching simulations that each could have sustainable impact to improve PreK-3rd grade children’s reading across the US. For our persistent and complex literacy problem, it seems fitting to create such dynamic and collaborative solutions. The Reach Every Reader (RER) initiative particularly aims to reach children who show signs of becoming struggling readers, especially children from hard-to-reach communities, with fewer resources. By capitalizing on prior research, RER is designing and testing a wide range of innovative, digital platforms to apply scalable, personalized diagnoses and interventions for children, teachers, and caregivers. There are many benefits and challenges to making a sustainable impact on struggling readers’ ecosystems, creating supportive technologies for multiple audiences, collaboratively integrating research between three elite universities, and building meaningful relationships between academics and local communities (i.e., schools). This presentation addresses how difficult an endeavor like RER can be and why it is worth the challenge to ensure every US child, especially struggling learners, can read and comprehend content.