As a mother of three young children who are drawn to the iPad like moths to a flame, it’s a little hard for me to write a blog post about the upside of screen time. Mostly I see the iPad as a frequent source of conflict in my house. My kids want to play games or watch shows on it, and I want them to do things I’ve deemed more meaningful—read books, play outside, build with Legos, or, dare I even dream it, pick up their room. Indeed, plenty of research confirms the negative consequences of too much screen time, which is why so many parents find themselves fighting this battle with their children day after day.

And yet, I’m well aware that there is an upside to this technology. My 16 years of working at Read Naturally have made this more apparent than ever.

On any given day in the Read Naturally office, we receive abundant feedback from students and teachers around the world confirming the power of the Read Naturally Strategy for struggling readers. As a writer given the privilege of working with Read Naturally students at a local elementary school, I’ve seen the incredible effects of this strategy firsthand.

I also witnessed a classroom transition from Encore, the paper-and-pen version of our materials, to Read Naturally Live, our cloud-based computer program and iPad app. In this case, the screen didn’t replace a greater learning activity at all. It was simply like asking students to read a book on a Kindle instead of in paperback. Same stories, same strategy, different format.

So what was the upside? With Read Naturally Live, the organization of pencils, papers, CDs, headphones, timers, and other materials disappeared. Students were able to get right to work. Over the course of a year, these few extra minutes of reading time per day added up to accelerate progress. The program also made data organization a breeze for teachers, which freed up their time to assist students. Furthermore, the “moth to the flame” phenomenon worked in everyone’s favor. Students were so drawn to the program on the screen, they were more motivated than ever to work on fluency. They realized, in a new way, how much fun reading could be.

As you know, the more fluent students are, the more interested they are in reading. Books from the library and the bookshelf have greater appeal because, for the first time, students can read and comprehend them well. If this is the end result, and a screen can help achieve it with increased efficiency, I’d call that an upside for sure.

If screens (in moderation!) are a part of your students' lives, consider a well-developed, tried-and-true educational program like Read Naturally Live or its at-home counterpart, One Minute Reader. Personally, I’m eager to get Read Naturally’s fun, vocabulary-boosting Splat-o-Nym app for my word-loving first grader to enjoy. Angry Birds? Not so much.