digital reading on tablet

I have been researching the use of ebooks, digital media, mobile devices and the development of transliteracy skills in the design of high-quality language and literacy-rich environments for over a decade. One thing I have started to notice recently is that many of digital reading platforms I have looked at in the past are offering free subscriptions for the remainder of the school year. This is an awesome opportunity for teachers to expand their classroom libraries to include digital formats!

Currently, all of these platforms are offering free digital resources for the remainder of the school year.

Despite a growing number of cloud-based digital reading programs in the educational marketplace, we know surprisingly little about their quality as curriculum products for supporting young readers’ development. The practical knowledge that school leaders need to make good decisions about the wide range of digital materials flooding into the educational marketplace is slim.

We do know that ebooks possess digital features designed to provide evidence-based instruction. For example, an ebook or other online text that offers animations to support the text would be similar to an adult or teacher who offers explanation of what is happening within a story. Having students repeatedly use the Read-to-Me feature of an ebook would be akin to a teacher offering repeated reading of a text to support understanding of story plot. Ebooks can scaffold the reading experience for learners of all ages, enabling literacy instruction to occur at times and places that are outside the classroom and embedded “within the book”. In addition, the free digital reading platforms listed previously leverage the affordances of a learning management system (LMS) to deliver content, handle registration and administration, and provide skills gap analysis, tracking and reporting.

As teacher look to expand their use of digital resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it may be helpful to share some tips for teachers who are getting started. While the research base is limited, we do know enough to make some recommendations! All of these tips come from the research I have been engaged in since 2009. Those references are listed at the end of the post, in case you are interested in learning more about that work.

Top Ten Recommendations Based on What We Know

1) Integrating digital reading platforms into day-to-day practice builds on what we know about effective reading practice in school, but also requires some new thinking and activities that ensure time spent is worthwhile.

2) As teachers begin to incorporate digital reading platforms in the classroom, a thoughtful and patient approach is essential to success.

3) Comfortable space for ebook reading in the traditional classroom library corner is a necessity. Teachers can encourage children to book browse and read familiar selections using digital reading platforms and at the same time practice using digital features and scaffolds embedded in ebooks to exercise reading skills.

4) Independent ebook reading via digital reading platforms does not always need to be a solo event. Children should be encouraged to share what they are reading with peers – which not only develops reading skills but also important social skills of collaboration and cooperation.

5) Teachers need to become comfortable with the ebooks and the associated digital features found in the ebooks themselves (hotspots and virtual assistants) before they can begin to leverage the electronic capabilities of ebooks to help teach early literacy skills.

6) Once an adequate teacher comfort level has been established, it is important to show the children how to navigate apps and ebooks effectively.

7) Teachers should encourage lots of ebook browsing and sharing. As a part of this encouragement, teachers should be sure to make children aware that the digital reading platform can help them select a “just-right” book on their reading level and catered to their reading interests.

8) Digital Reading Platforms can take over many of the time-consuming teacher tasks of developing, organizing, planning, implementing and monitoring daily reading practice for fairly large groups of students. To capitalize on what these programs can and will actually do for developing readers, however, requires a human touch.

9) Teachers can continue to create robust learning communities that support shared discussion, peer collaboration and exchange about reading and books. They can “mine the mounting dashboard data” to get more deeply involved in understanding the reading needs of their students.

10) Teachers can use the tremendous efficiency of digital reading platforms to more actively promote the longstanding principle of learning by doing in the act of reading – helping students to focus on practicing the essential skills they need to read and to read with enjoyment.


Roskos, K., Northrop, L., Brueck, J., Lenhart, L., & Evans, M. (2019). Descriptive Observations of Tool Functionality and Application for Assessing Digital Reading Program Quality. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology. Retrieved from

Brueck, J., Lenhart, L., & Roskos, K. (2019). Digital Reading Programs: Definitions, Analytic Tools and Practice Examples. In J.E. Kim & B. Hassinger-Das (eds.). Reading in the Digital Age: Young Children’s Experiences with E-books (pp. 135-156). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Brueck, J., & Salem, J. (2017). Early evidence of the psychometric characteristics and usability of the e-book quality rating tool in the primary grades. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 18 (2). Retrieved from

Roskos, K., Brueck J. & Lenhart, L (2017). An analysis of e-book learning platforms: Affordances, architecture, functionality and analytics. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction. Retrieved from

Roskos, K., & Brueck, J. (2016). Teaching Early Literacy with E-books: Emerging Practices. In Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development (Technology in early childhood education).Retrieved from education/according-experts/teaching-early-literacy-e-books-emerging.

Brueck, J., & Lenhart, L. (2015). Ebooks and TPACK: What teachers need to know. The Reading Teacher, 68(5). Retrieved from

Brueck, J. (2014). A Qualitative Understanding of Teaching in an Ebook Equipped Early Elementary Classroom. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from

Roskos, K., Burstein, K., You, B., Brueck, J., & O’Brien, C. (2011). A formative study of an e-book instructional model in early literacy. Creative Education, 2(1). Retrieved from

Roskos, K., Brueck, J., & Widman, S. (2009). Developing Analytic Tools for e-Book Design in Early Literacy Learning.  Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 8(3). Retrieved from

Roskos, K., & Brueck, J. (2009). The eBook in an online world. In A. Bus & S.B. Neuman (Eds), Multimedia and literacy development. (pp77-88). New York: Taylor & Francis.