Faculty members develop new apps to cultivate early literacy

Animal illustrations.

Characters from the Animal Antics app.

2 min read

Critical pre-literacy skills are developed long before elementary school, through play and interactive conversations with caregivers at home. Three new early-literacy apps — released for free from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and its Reach Every Reader initiative — are designed for parents and caregivers to use with their children to encourage fun and rewarding interactions, promote dialogue, and give children the foundations they need to read, learn, and thrive.

Throughout its 100-year history, HGSE has pioneered innovative approaches to language and literacy — generating breakthroughs in understanding the cognitive and developmental processes that govern how we learn to speak and read, as well as about the best ways to nurture readers from preschool to high school. That tradition continues with Reach Every Reader, a multi-institutional effort to harness emerging research and technology to end to a crisis in literacy that leaves more than half of all students in the United States struggling to read well by the end of third grade.

The new apps for for mobile devices were developed by a team led by Joe Blatt, senior lecturer on education at HGSE and principal investigator; Meredith Rowe, Saul Zaentz Professor of Early Learning and Development; and Paola Uccelli, professor of education at HGSE. The research team partnered with public media producer GBH and educational media developer FableVision Studios. To learn more about the research behind the apps and stay connected to updates, new releases, and literacy resources, visit Reach Every Reader.

A few tips from HGSE’s learning apps:

  • Engaging parents and caregivers in enjoyable and rewarding interactions with their young children
  • Stimulating sustained conversations between caregivers and children, laying the foundations for learning and reading
  • Over time, broadening these conversations to include richer vocabulary and more abstract references
  • Empowering and supporting caregivers to talk with their young ones all day — both at home and while doing everyday activities outside of the home