Literacy for Kids: Instilling a Love of Reading in the Early Years Through eLearning
Encouraging a love of reading and writing in children can be a challenging task for teachers and parents alike. And while education institutions aim to create interesting and robust learning curriculums to encourage strong literacy rates among children, some kids still lag behind. Literacy for Kids, an online learning platform founded by a mother and former teacher, is proving to be the perfect supplemental eLearning space for kids to increase their literacy competencies from an early age.
Meet Tanya Grambower, a former teacher and tutor-turned-entrepreneur, who founded Literacy for Boys five years ago to address the gap in literacy resources for boys in her native Australia. By using technology to engage boys in literacy activities, she realized the success of her tutoring services was due to the engagement, variety, and choice she offered her learners.
With the success of that project, Grambower launched Literacy for Kids in 2021, a supplemental online learning platform for teachers and parents to address literacy challenges among kids aged 7 to 15, in order to grow their confidence and chances for success in life through literacy.
The eLearning platform offers comprehensive reading and writing resources that schools and parents can tap into to get children up to the national standard literacy level.
Read on to discover how Literacy for Kids is helping children in Australia, with the aim of expanding globally in the coming years.
How did you get started with Literacy for Kids? What inspired the project?
Tanya: Literacy for Kids actually stems from the huge success of Literacy for Boys, which is all about engaging boys in literacy. We found that schools, teachers, and parents were coming to us and saying how much girls really enjoyed the program. So we listened and created Literacy for Kids, which we launched in the last couple of months. It’s very exciting.
How does the program work?
Tanya: We found that when children become disengaged from reading, their literacy really drops. Getting kids to read is actually an Australia-wide national problem, particularly as we compete with technology. We looked at how we can use technology to bring kids back to reading. In my experience as a mom, as a teacher, and as a tutor, I know that kids will read if you present them with engaging content and a wide choice of topics that appeal to them. This has been our recipe for success in improving literacy for all students—regardless of whether they need extra support, extension, or just a prompt to re-engage with reading.
Our platform, which is powered by Open LMS Work, is engaging and exciting for children. It gives them choice. And because the students love the content and the topics, they want to do it more and more. Repetition breeds success—that's been our formula for success.
We offer 12-month subscriptions and there’s a huge library of content that is more than enough for a child to work through in that time. We have a lot of return customers where once their child has worked through a level, they purchase the next level.
We’re fortunate to say that our success rate with schools has been incredible, as 100% of our schools have subscribed to the program after their first trial. During lockdowns, our feedback from teachers is that our programs (Literacy for Boys and Literacy for Kids) meant that their students practiced their literacy skills every day, therefore freeing up teachers to spend time planning for other subject areas.
Can you talk about the intersection between the in-person learning experience and technology?
Tanya: I believe learning will take place if it's an active process, and this generation of children really respond to technology, so I think you can use both. Face-to-face direct teaching with a teacher is incredibly valuable, and a program like Literacy for Kids supports what they do.
Children gravitate towards technology and eLearning. I asked the question, ‘How can I create something that embraces kids' natural tilt toward technology yet covers essential literacy skills?’ I’ve taken the core concepts of literacy and put them together on an eLearning platform. For example, what differentiates us from other programs is our 'hook,' which is 1-2 minutes of really exciting video, whether it's about sport, Lego, roller coasters, and so on. This creates both excitement and context for the students. From there, they’re eager to read the passage and complete the comprehension questions.
The benefit of technology is that teachers and students get instant feedback. Their mark is recorded and they receive comments about their strengths and their improvement areas.
If you have a program where teachers can monitor student progress, they can see where they're falling behind. Teachers have the data in front of them, so they can teach and improve based on that. The program and platform are designed with teachers in mind and genuinely supports what teachers are doing in the classroom.
You chose Open LMS Work to host your eLearning program. What made you choose that platform over others in the market?
Tanya: Open LMS Work was really the only platform that could support everything we wanted to offer. We needed a platform that engaged the students and wanted something that offered flexibility. Open LMS Work is great because you can insert videos, which is of high interest to the students, but we also wanted something that offered variety in the quiz components. The kids love click and drag, multiple-choice, and matching images exercises. Every activity is varied for the students and that was very important to us.
E-Creators by Open LMS has also been wonderful for any technical support, or if we want to expand the program. It's great to work with a team who are on this journey with us.
We wanted activities that were motivating and needed them to be visually appealing. Open LMS Work is great in that it offers just that. It’s really important to keep kids interested. You have to offer variety and choice, while still making sure that they're engaged and motivated. It has been really beneficial and the program works really well in conjunction with that.
The kids love it. What about the parents? What kind of feedback have you received from them?
Tanya: The feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive. Usually, parents have a battle with getting their children off technology, but Literacy for Kids is different because they see it's a learning tool. They can see how engaged their kids are, and every parent knows the value of literacy. So if your child wants to complete another activity or wants to read more, you don't want to pause that.
Many parents have approached us with their concerns about disruptions of their children's learning due to COVID-19. Parents are working and trying to homeschool and it's very stressful. Our program has eased those pressures because parents know that their kids are working through high-quality content that practices those important literacy concepts. They comment that they never need to ask their kids to use the program—it's a win-win.
How important is accessibility and having the technology that supports it when putting together learning programs for kids?
There are a number of students that are lagging behind where they should be, for various reasons. If you have students who are dyslexic, for example, we found that Open LMS Work works well with something like text-to-speech applications, which means that teachers can install that on their computers and the text is narrated to students. This means they can still practice their literacy comprehension skills, regardless of ability level. That's been a really nice benefit—that it's engaging and really helping those students who have roadblocks to literacy.
Can you share some of the successes you’ve experienced with Literacy for Kids so far?
Tanya: We’ve had independent trials in schools that implemented the program, from the Year Three students all the way through to Year Six. They pre- and post-tested all ability levels. We had low-literacy students, there were ESL (English as a Second Language) students, the average students, and kids that needed extension. They found that after 18 weeks on our online program, the students made an average gain of 12 months in their reading ability, comprehension skills, and spelling. We were overwhelmed by this result!
Why do you think a program like Literacy for Kids is so important today?
Tanya: I can’t express how important literacy is. It’s fundamental to success in life, and literacy overarches everything. I’ve seen first-hand that when students feel great about literacy and reading, they have high self-esteem and self-confidence, and this transfers over to every subject and area in life and will contribute to their success.
Literacy for Kids has been integrated into schools in New Zealand and currently expanding into schools in Canada
Having trouble getting your kids to read? Here are Grambower’s top tips for parents:
- Read to them from a really young age. Expose them to books as much as you can.
- Let them catch you reading. Whether it's a book, magazine, or newspaper, make sure they see you reading.
- Establish a routine. You need to make time for reading every day. There will be days that your child's either tired, or you've had a really busy extracurricular activities afternoon, but find 10 minutes every day during the week to read.
- If you have older kids, I would suggest reading some of the same books and discussing the plot together to get them engaged in the content. As an example, when my older son drifted from books, I started reading a zombie series (please note that zombies are not my thing!). However, the characters and storyline were brilliant and we could chat briefly about these each day. It showed him that I was interested and valued reading.
- If your child is a reluctant reader, think of other ways to get them reading. For example, purchase a magazine subscription of a topic or theme that interests them. Try to get them books on the subjects that they're interested in. E-readers and audiobooks work great.
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