To the Editor:
It’s exciting for me to see Mark Zuckerberg speaking about the need to keep learning as an adult (“Zuckerberg Charts New Path”). His interview with Education Week demonstrates that he has taken important lessons from his $100 million experiment in Newark, N.J., and that rather than letting the challenges he experienced discourage him, he is diving right back in.
Zuckerberg is right—technology is inevitably a major part of the equation going forward, so we need to make sure the right technologies are being adopted. One key point didn’t come through, though. He emphasizes only what happens once a child starts school, but almost all of a person’s brain development happens in the first five years of life. Because of this, a child’s community must serve as his or her first teachers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends parents read aloud to their children from birth, and research shows that the language gap for children from low-income families can already be evident at 18 months. I founded my organization, You TELL Me Stories—which offers no-cost and ad-free reading apps—because I wanted every child from every background to have meaningful read-aloud experiences during those formative years.
New technologies, most notably digital picture books, mean that any caregiver can read to a child. Increasingly, these technologies are free or very low-cost. They can model interactive reading techniques, and they are designed for access even by low-literacy caregivers. Parents are anxious about how and to what extent their children should interact with screens, but guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics state that “the quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media.”
Digital picture books, when well designed, are the right kind of content.
You TELL Me Stories Inc.
New York, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2016 edition of Education Week as Read to Children Early and Often, Even From Digital Picture Books