UF Lastinger Center for Learning partners with Kibeam Learning™ to improve literacy across the state

A new UF partnership is providing families in Florida with materials to boost literacy in a research pilot for children in first and second grade.

UF Lastinger Center for Learning recently entered a partnership with Kibeam Learning Inc., a California-based educational technology start-up, founded by inventor of the LeapFrog LeapPad, Jim Marggraff. 

The New Worlds Reading Initiative, administered by the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, is a state-sponsored literacy program for eligible VPK-5th grade students carried out in partnership with the Florida Department of Education and Scholastic. Families in the program will be invited to participate in a research project focused on increasing engagement with New Worlds Reading book selections via the Kibeam Wand™.

The Kibeam Wand™ is a small handheld device that features colorful lights, motion sensors and a friendly speaking voice that guides children through each book.

Children using the Kibeam wand.

Photo credit: Kibeam Learning Inc.

Families and children will be introduced to the interactive reading device and encouraged to use it as part of their reading experience. Data will be collected to understand impact on students' reading behaviors, caregiver-child interactions during shared story time, and overall engagement. 

“The UF Lastinger Center’s New Worlds Reading Initiative and Kibeam’s technology innovation, the Kibeam Wand™ Reading System, offer engaging, kinetic learning activities based on the stories in existing, ordinary paper books. They promote a love of reading for young readers and open up new possibilities with data analytics designed to aid parents and educators in supporting emerging readers,” Marggraff said.

To date, the program, established by legislation in 2021, has distributed more than 4.2 million books to children across the state and developed resources for kids, caregivers, and educators. The program complements additional efforts by the UF Lastinger Center to enhance learning outcomes by providing professional learning opportunities for educators and resources for teachers, families and students.

“Through the data collected from the experiences and engagement of families, we hope to better understand the relationship between book, reader, technology and enhanced content,” said Phil Poekert, Ph.D., director of the Lastinger Center. “With better insights into that relationship, we can design programs, products and projects that can effectively amplify reading engagement and accelerate reading performance.”

Brittany Sylvestri December 7, 2023