About Julie Coiro

Empowering Young 
Readers and Writers 
With Technology Tools

Presenter: Julie Coiro, 
Literacy and Technology Specialist

May 3, 2001 Families & Literacy Conference
Ramada Plaza Hotel, Meriden

You can access this online at

Welcome parents, teachers and families with young children.  During the "live version" of this presentation, we addressed four important questions about using computers to enhance the literacy development of preschoolers.  This web site was created so that you may revisit the ideas and resources discussed during the session. 
What are the benefits of using computers with young children, especially in the area of early literacy development?

  • Children can become active decision makers about what takes place on the screen.
  • Children can engage in creative play, mastery learning, problem solving and conversation.
  • The child controls the pacing and the action; can repeat often and experiment with variations.
  • Children collaborate in making decisions and share their discoveries and creations with others.
  • They learn how to communicate and cooperate with their peers.
  • There is more turn taking and opportunities for different ways of playing together.
Early Literacy Benefits (link to source)
    • easier transition from concrete to symbolic representational thought
    • improved memory, creative thinking and comprehension (when used appropriately)
    • children tend to write and tell longer and more elaborate stories about computer graphics than they do about static pictures
    • an increase in parental, especially paternal, interest and involvement
    • more active, independent learning with varied sensory and conceptual experiences
    • children talk, draw, and write more with open-ended software (vs. drill & practice)
    • many opportunities to experience real and  functional uses of text and print

    Source: Pierce, Patsy L. Ph.D. (1994) Technology Integration into Early Childhood Curricula: Where We've Been, Where We Are, Where We Should Go. Project from National Center to Improve Tools of Educators

What are some examples of electronic tools that can enhance the learning of emerging readers and writers?
Choose Open-Ended Programs to Enhance Reading and Writing
"Open-ended software gives children the opportunity to explore and discover, make choices, and then find out the impact of their decisions. Children using this type of software showed gains in many important areas, including intelligence and nonverbal skills. They showed more wondering and hypothesizing, problem solving, collaboration, and motivation, and a more positive attitude toward learning." (source)

Interactive Storybooks: Children are fairly passive with these programs, but they are meant to be enjoyed together; own just a few for exploring and remember to keep reading the books off the computer too.  Great opportunities for quality time together.

  • Living Books (eg. Just Grandma and Me, Cat in the Hat, Arthur's Birthday, Little Monster At School)
  • Disney's Animated Storybook: Winnie the Pooh 
Multiple Activity Packs of Pre-Literacy or Early Literacy Skills. These programs provide a mixture of math, language, coloring, music, and art. Children have the opportunity to more freely through the activities and enjoy the challenge of various levels. 
  • JumpStart Toddler and Preschool
  • Reader Rabbit Preschool and Kindergarten
  • Dr. Seuss Preschool and Kindergarten Reading
  • Fisher Price Ready for Preschool
  • See other reviews from SuperKids Early Learning Software
  • Tools for Authentic Exploration with Letters and Words: Linking reading and writing.  Children love to use various electronic picture and text tools to explore the relationship between letters, sounds, words and pictures.  Some activities are relatively structured, while Edmark programs allow users to choose the type of interaction. (Stop to visit Edmark's Dear Parent's section Preschoolers and Computers too!)
  • Stanley's Sticker Stories (Edmark) Story writing
  • Travel the World With Timmy Deluxe (Edmark) Multicultural literacy activities with a multi-lingual approach
  • Bailey's Book House: (Edmark) Authentic reading and writing with cards, books,  rhyming and letter sounds
  • Ready to Read with Pooh: (Disney) problem solving, forming letters, learning sounds and letter names
  • Reader Rabbit's Reading Developmental Library: (Learning Company) Explore three favorite folk tales from many different points of view
  • Alphabonk Farm: (Headbone Interactive) a wacky exploration of the alphabet with truly interactive activities
  • Tools for Creative Responding and Exploration (screen shots of examples)
  • Kid Pix Studio- drawing, writing, responding (good price) (examples from elementary school students)
  • Kid Works Deluxe - talking word processor 
  • Let's Explore Series: read reviews of the Jungle, Airport, and Farm (all three sold together as The Humongous Junior Field Trip Collection)
  • EA Kids Art Center: An oldie but goodie (thematic stamping, ABC, shapes, 123) 
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Freddie Fish's Maze Madness: Creative thinking and development
  • I Spy: Visual Discrimination (I Spy School Days) (see also examples to play together online
  • Humongous Entertainment: (now FunKidsGames) Putt Putt, Pajama Sam, Freddy Fish
  • Logical Journey of the Zoombinis (designed for much older learners, but I've seen a few four year olds really grasp the's great for adults too!)

  • Exploring New Internet Literacies with Preschoolers

    What are some recommended "healthy computer practices" for preschoolers and their families?

    Healthy Practices for Young Children
  • Technology and Young Children Ages 3-8,  Position Statement from National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
  • Children and Computer Technology, from the Fall/Winter 2000 issue of The Future of Children (read press release, executive summary, access the full text online or order a free copy)  Also read the companion article, Children and Computer Technology, Issues and Ideas, a guide for policymakers and journalists.
  • Play with your child; encourage personal discussion and observe his/her reactions 
  • Discourage impulsive clicking; move beyond skill and drill to encourage higher level thinking & problem solving
  • Encourage use by ALL students, not just as award for good behavior
  • Limit from 15 min. to 30 min. maximum 
  • Computers should complement art, blocks, sand, water, books, writing, and dramatic play (at school and at home).  Supplement “eyes-on” with “hands-on” (from Jane Healy's Failure to Connect) 
  • Don’t use as substitute for lap time and interactive reading with adults
  • Tips for using the mouse with little ones ("sticker on clicker"
  • Place the computer in a “community area” 
  • Avoid the strain on little necks and backs... (chair, mouse, keyboard, monitor) Read more from Keeping Kids Healthy While Using The Home Computer 
  • Remember, some children are just not ready to use the computer. 

  • How can I locate and evaluate appropriate CD-ROMs and Internet Web Sites for my preschooler?

    Evaluating Software

    You can easily search for software reviews of a particular software program. Simply visit a search engine like Google, type the title of the program into the search box, enclose the title in quotation marks (ie. "Bailey's Book House") and click Search. You'll be linked to many reviews from different organizations as well as to websites from which you can purchase the program if you'd like.  Be sure to visit more than one site to get the best price and various perspectives. To read reviews by a particular organization, visit some of those listed below; each website offers something a little different. 

    Internet Web Sites for Preschoolers
    Resources for Parents and Teachers of Preschoolers
    Bibliography of Print Resources
    The following list of resources will be useful to parents, caregivers and teachers interested in learning more about promoting success in reading and writing for young children while integrating technology in authentic and meaningful ways. Some links connect you to places to purchase books while others connect you to the full text available online. Enjoy! 
    Blanckensee, Leni V. (1999).  Technology Tools for Young LearnersLarchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

    Burns, M. Susan, Griffin, Peg and Snow, Catherine E. (ed).(1999) Starting Out Right: A guide to promoting children's reading success. (full text available online or for purchase) Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 

    Casey, Jean M. (1997).  Early Literacy: The Empowerment of Technology.  Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

    Cordes, C. & Miller, E.(Eds) (2000).  Fool's gold: a critical look at computers in childhood. College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood. 

    Haugland, Susan W. and Wright, June L. (1997).  Young Children and Technology: A World of Discovery. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.  (see Haugland's Developmental Software Scale and also her article "Selecting Developmentally Appropriate Software")

    Healy, Jane M. (1998).  Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds - for Better and Worse. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. 

  • See also Technos Quarterly Interview 
  • Article Are Computers Bad For Kids?
  • AAP Article: Understanding TV's effect on the developing brain
  • Meyer, A and Rose, David H. (1998). Learning to Read in the Computer Age. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books. (entire text available online) 

    Children and Computer Technology and Isses and Ideas, both from The Future of Children, Vol. 10, No.2, Fall/Winter 2000.  (full text available online)

    Parent Brochures about Literacy with Young Children from The International Reading Association (order or print single copies for free)

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    This page was created by Julie Coiro on April 13, 2001