Reading, Writing, and Technology

Reading, Writing, and Technology
media, new
When you hear the word
literacy, do you picture
a book? A magazine? A
©2008 Jupite
newspaper? Today, literacy
means all these things—and more.
Our conception of literacy is rapidly changing.
Advances in technology have provided us with
word processors, e-mail, interactive websites, video
games, podcasts, and DVDs.
These “new media” give us new ways to convey
information. They also expand the definition of
literate to include competence with devices and
ways of communicating that did not exist a few
years ago.
Children today certainly need to know how to read
books and write with pen and paper. But they
also must learn how to navigate and master new
technologies. Many jobs now require workers to
send and receive e-mail and use word-processing or
information-gathering software.
to assess a list of suggested sites and then analyze
Web content for relevance to the question at hand.
“The Internet is here to stay, so starting to develop
these skills early gives children a good grounding in
the skills that they’ll need their whole lives,” says Dr.
Laurie Henry of the University of Kentucky.
Benefits of Internet reading
Unlike a paper book, the Internet offers dynamic
texts with videos, audio, and links to different sites.
There are many benefits to online reading:
• Interactive sites can match your child’s learning
style: visual, hands-on, auditory.
• Websites offer context clues and organizing
structures such as subheads, diagrams, and
clickable definitions of unfamiliar terms, which
help emerging readers develop stronger
comprehension skills.
• Exploring websites makes children predict what
they will read next. According to Dr. Julie Coiro of
the University of Rhode Island, the very nature of
hypertext, with information hidden underneath,
compels kids to make many more forward
inferences while reading than they ever make in
paper books.
As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child
prepare for the literacy demands of tomorrow by
seeking opportunities for him or her to become
a proficient user of the Internet and related
Interactive learning
The Internet
and critical thinking
As your child browses online—for fun or research—
he or she is practicing critical skills. With help, your
young reader can learn the strategies needed to
tackle even more complex and difficult online tasks.
Surfing the Internet is fun for kids. It also strengthens
important literacy skills.
Children reading online rely on critical thinking and
research strategies to find the information they need.
For example, a simple Web search requires students
• Correspondence—Encourage your child to
express his or her thoughts in e-mail to friends and
family members. This provides excellent reading
and writing practice in an informal, low-stress
• Author study—Help your child learn more about
a favorite author. Look up titles of other books
by that author, and help your child send a letter
or e-mail to the author or publisher asking about
plans for future publications.
• Critical thinking—Do a Web search to gather
information on a topic of interest to your child,
such as a sport or hobby, a place your family has
visited, or a historical figure. Review the search
results with your child, talking about which sites
may be reliable and interesting and which ones
might not be as useful.
• Precautions—Teach your child to tell an adult
immediately if he or she comes across something
scary or inappropriate on the Internet. Caution
against sharing personal information on the Web.
Learn what parental controls are available through
your Internet provider or additional software, and
use them wisely.
Tuned in
to reading
Television and movies have
been around longer than
the Internet and probably
have a worse reputation as
time-wasters. However, better
family viewing habits can help improve
• Join your child when he or she is watching TV.
Share predictions about what will happen on the
show, discuss the show during commercials, and
talk about the show after it’s over. These are basic
strategies for developing comprehension.
• Find something in a show or movie that can serve
as a springboard for reading. Borrow library books
on the subject or do research online together to
learn more.
• Ask your child to make up a story for a good TV
show. Help your child write it down and have him
or her draw the pictures. Or ask an older child to
write it down and then read it—or act it out—for
the family.
A few great websites
for parents
• offers free
reading and language arts activities
collected by the International
Reading Association and the
National Council of Teachers of
• NoodleTools offers step-by-step tips
for researching information online:
• lists kid-safe sites by
• Encourage older children to read books that have
been adapted as movies, then watch the film and
compare the two versions.
• Keep an atlas and dictionary close to the TV to look
up unfamiliar words or places mentioned.
New opportunities
to read and write
Reading doesn’t just happen when your child holds
a book. Used creatively with traditional reading
materials, TV, the Internet, and other media can be
assets in your child’s quest for information and in
boosting his or her reading and writing skills.
Reading, Writing, and Technology is one in
a series of brochures produced in response
to questions that parents frequently ask
about their children’s reading instruction.
Single copies may be downloaded free at
the Association’s website,
Bulk copies may be purchased online or by
telephone at 302-731-1600.
Text by Janel Atlas
© 2008 International Reading Association
The mission of the International Reading
Association is to promote reading by
continuously advancing the quality of literacy
instruction and research worldwide. Our goals
are to
• Enhance the professional development of
reading educators worldwide
• Advocate for research, policy, and practices
that support the best interests of all learners
and reading professionals
• Establish and strengthen national and
international alliances with a wide range of
• Encourage and support research to
promote informed decision making about
reading practice and policy
• Provide leadership on literacy issues
around the world
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