We help innovative schools grow purposeful readers

Secret Agent Mia helps innovative schools grow readers

We give you conversational AI and machine learning informed by literacy research.
You motivate elementary school students to read more and reflect more deeply.

BENEFITS

Boost motivation to read by 25% while deepening self-understanding

Say goodbye to aimless shelf browsing and rigid leveling systems. Say hello to smart, skillful, and self-directed book selection. 

Case study: How Creative Minds boosted motivation by 3.5% per month

As the lower school at Creative Minds International in Washington, DC began increasing their instructional focus on reading proficiency in 2018-2019, they didn’t want it to crowd out support for independent reading. To achieve this balance, they needed to boost students’ reading motivation and help them become more reflective about reading in less class time than ever before.

Graph of CMI MRPR Scores

Students' Motivation to Read Profile Revised scores before and after two months of Mia

Through just two 15-minute sessions each month during readers workshop, Mia helped second graders gain a statistically-significant 3.5% per month on the Motivation to Read Profile Revised, the equivalent of a yearly increase in motivation to read of 32%. Both struggling and high achieving readers saw significant growth. 

By taking a whole child approach to reading motivation you will be able to:

You will be able to motivate students to read more books, more often, and with more enjoyment

You will be able to help students take more ownership and control of their own reading. 

You will be able to help students become more engaged and confident in their capabilities. 

You will be able to equip kids with skills to choose books best suited to their purposes, interests, abilities, and preferences.

Inspire young readers to venture outside of their comfort zone, trying books in unfamiliar genres, on new topics, and with characters of diverse backgrounds and experiences

"Unlike other programs myopically focused on your skills as a reader, Mia is centrally focused on building your passion for reading, being really excited about what you're reading, yourself as a reader, and how you’re growing. Mia helps kids feel a sense of agency and developing a sense of themselves as readers. Mia reminds and affirms kids that they get to make choices."
Kathryn Pierce
Dr. Kathryn Pierce
Assistant Professor, Educational Studies, St. Louis University
"Mia knows 'just right' doesn't just mean level; it means their interests or where they are at a certain moment, or what they care about at a certain time, or how they might want to connect to what’s happening in our society."
Dr. Susan Browne
Chair, Department of Language, Literacy & Education, Rowan University

Easily integrate innovative AI and machine learning aligned with reading research into the classroom

Get rid of so-called “personalized” or “adaptive technology” that ignores teacher expertise and disempowers students.

You will be able to support independent reading without disrupting your existing curriculum, knowing that this program was explicitly designed in consultation with experts in the field, aligns with your values, and is informed by the latest in literacy research. 

Read our whitepaper describing the educational research on which Mia is based: 
Why Mia, Why Now: Why Mia, Why Now:
A Research-based Path to Self-motivated and Purposeful Reading

"Students loved Secret Agent Mia! All spring, they asked, ‘When’s our next Mia day??’ When books arrived, they read silently for more than 30 minutes, even the struggling readers."
Rachel Veclotch
Rachel Veclotch
Lead Teacher, Lower School, Creative Minds International School

Inform and extend parent and teacher engagement with students' reading lives

Assuage anxiety about not having enough time for one-on-one conversations about independent reading

You will be able to empower educators with useful data about students’ independent reading and automatically alert parents of opportunities to support their children’s growth as readers more deeply .

Student sharing with a family member
"One of our responsibilities as classroom teachers is to interact with kids and figure out their reading passions and interests and help them find the books that are going to launch, extend, and expand their reading careers. Those one-on-one conferences require an investment of time, a really important investment. Mia offers another conference partner, an opportunity for a classroom teacher to have another trusted colleague in the room right there, asking children questions, gathering information, providing affirming responses, recommending books."
Dr. Jennifer Graff
Chair, National Council of Teachers of English Children's Literature Assembly

FEATURES

Painless curricular integration with R3

Students work with Mia through the Recommend-Read-Reflect (R3) cycle: Mia recommends books from which students choose, students read their selected books, and Mia coaches them to reflect on their reading choices and experiences. You can easily incorporate these activities into existing curricula, such as reading workshop. 

3R Cycle
The Recommend-Read-Reflect (3R) Cycle

All it takes to get results is one recommend and one reflect session each month, each 15-20 minutes long. However, 24/7 access means there is no limit to how often students can talk with Mia.

"What I like about Mia is that it's designed by people who know what they're doing with literacy, and also, it's taking so little time away from what I'm doing in the classroom, and even enhancing and complementing the reading instruction I'm doing. Instead of either/or, it's a both and."
Christopher Markham
Fourth Grade Teacher, Rockingham County Schools

Put the right books in each student's hands with individualized book recommendations

Mia learns about students’ interests, preferences, ability, and purposes. From thousands of titles, she recommends a manageable set of books from which to pick and is always up to date on the newest releases. Her recommendations share characteristics with books students already love, as well as helping them branch out with new topics, genres, cultures, and ideas. 

Play Video

A student choosing from the books Mia recommends

Parents can buy the books students choose through a monthly book club subscription, or Mia can recommend only books students can get from their local library.  

Mia delivery - two girls under table reading together-8155
Second graders read a new book chosen on Mia's recommendation
"I really appreciate a tool that helps parents to find books that are going to match their particular interests and proclivities, and that include some recently published books maybe we have never heard of but children are very eager and excited to read."
Dr. Nell Duke
Professor, Literacy, Language & Culture, University of Michigan
"I love that Mia guides my child in picking books and that she always regularly has new ones she will read and learn from about without me having to worry about whether I’ve paid enough attention. She’s loved all the books Mia helped her pick."
Rachel Houghton
Rachel Houghton
Parent
"I’ve read the books Mia recommended to me, like, 50 times!"
Cheshire Cat
Fiona
Student

Deepen self-understanding and strengthen choices through personalized coaching

Mia invites students to examine their reading lives through reflective dialogues, productive queries, and multimedia content chosen just for them. 

In this coaching video, one junior agent helps another figure out what she’s interested in even as animated villains try to foil and undermine her.

Original live action and animated videos present lively, relatable, and realistic scenarios. Characters model coping with common reading dilemmas such as minimizing distractions, zeroing in on one’s interests, and overcoming fatalistic, fixed-mindset attitudes about reading. Mia prompts students to reflect on their own solutions and empowers them to solve real-world problems. 

Play Video

Mia helps a student reflect on reducing distractions 

"Mia helps kids to broaden their reading, reflect meaningfully on their interests, find the 'sweet spot' between too easy and too hard, and to recognize that levels can be useful but are not foolproof."
Leigh Ellis Beauchamp
Reading Specialist, Rockingham County Public Schools
"Mia models and talks to students, helping them learn to choose books wisely. She’s in a dialogue with students. Mia says, 'Here's how I've made choices based on what I know about you, and I want you to take this final step: Learn how to make the best choices for your reading by yourself.'"
Dr. Peter Afflerbach
Professor of Reading, University of Maryland
"Mia's always there. Mia's never crabby. Mia always has time to listen. She can always give a reasoned response. In those ways, Mia is a great support for both the child and the adults who are working them."
Kathryn Pierce
Dr. Kathryn Pierce
Assistant Professor, Educational Studies, St. Louis University

Gain insight on students' reading lives using dashboards and notifications

Teachers and parents connect more deeply with students’ independent reading using data on interests, goals, motivation, tastes, and volume of reading. Teachers can “nudge” Mia to prioritize topics and genres in her recommendations that connect to academic goals for each student.

Text messages to a parent
Texts messages alerting a parent to an opportunity to talk with their child about reading

Parents can choose to receive SMS or email notifications when Mia identifies a chance to connect with their child about reading, such as discussing a topic they’ve been reading about or suggesting that parent and child read a challenging book together. 

"Because life is so busy, it can be hard to remember to check in and ask my kids questions about what they're reading. It's awesome that Mia can support me by alerting me when she detects an opportunity for me to engage with my children's reading lives. Mia reinforces the empowerment I want to instill in my kids, cultivates literacy, and helps them navigate it."
Sarah Koechlein
Parent and Librarian

Deepen understanding of AI through hands-on lessons

Custom lessons help students learn how Mia’s AI and machine learning work. Not only will students be able to create their own chatbots, but they can also teach Mia to answer new questions about their school, community, or topic of interest. Their contributions will shape how Mia talks to other kids around the world while building 21st century skills.

screenshot of student chatbot development
Students training Mia to answer a new question
"Building a network of young people with interdisciplinary skills and an understanding of AI’s power to create social change is fundamental to ensuring an inclusive future for AI."
Tess Posner, ED of AI4ALL
Tess Posner
CEO, AI4ALL

Engage students using conversational AI

Students talk with our conversational AI (aka chatbot), Secret Agent Mia, by speaking or typing on our secure website,  using any device, in or out of school. An engaging story and supporting cast makes Mia accessible and fun.

Talking with Mia about interests.

Scenes from Secret Agent Mia’s Adventures

"It’s the coolest when kids see Mia as this character that they identify with, who’s listening to them and interacting with them in a very concrete, realistic way. It’s something that hasn't really been done before in blended learning."
Chris Hils
Chris Hils
Director of Programs, Treehouse Books

TEAM

Leadership

Darren Cambridge, Ph.D. 
CEO

Former head of National Council of Teachers of English Washington Office, Darren has directed project for the U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation Project, served on the faculty of George Mason University, and won the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Prize. His favorite part of every day is reading with his two elementary-school-aged sons. 

Why Darren co-founded Mia Learning

Kathleen Perez-Lopez, Ph.D. 
CTO

Over her 30+ years career in data science and information technology R&D, Kathleen has worked as a federal statistician, imaging scientist, and, most recently, developer of platforms to support online teacher education and professional learning for K12 Computer Science teachers and leaders. She prefers to write code and to read books than the other way around.

Puneet Puri
VP of Engineering

Puneet has developed and deployed cutting-edge enterprise and customer products throughout his 20+ years in engineering management &  system architecture. With Perez-Lopez, he is founder of a network of Deep Learning researchers. He loves to watch movies and travel with his kids.

Diana Black
Head Writer

A writer, children’s librarian, teacher, storyteller, singer, and actor, Diana created her city’s first 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program and won the VPLDA  Award for Outstanding Children’s Programming. Her expressive storytelling has earned her the moniker, “Woman of a Thousand Voices” and she has read “Hooray for Birds” to her infant son approximately that number of times.

Literacy Experts Taskforce

Mia Learning’s product was developed in close collaboration with a nationally recognized group of literacy researchers, teachers, librarians, and non-profit leaders (from the organizations below). Members have won honors ranging from induction into the International Reading Hall of Fame to being named one of the top 20 most influential educational researchers by Education Week to being Oliver’s favorite teacher. Learn more about the taskforce and its work on our blog. 

FAQ

Many companies recommend and provide children with access to books. Our personalized recommendations reflect the most sophisticated expert knowledge about reading growth, as well as presenting the opportunity to own real print books. However, we’re different in a more fundamental way.

Most competing products focus on independent reading as a means to the end of boosting test scores or meeting state standards. In contrast, Mia is firmly focused on what kids themselves want to get out of reading. Mia is successful when children read more and use reading to advance their interests, broaden their horizons, and have a blast. (A happy peripheral benefit: Research shows that’s one of the best ways to improve reading proficiency.)

Using many literacy software products feels like doing yet more homework or looking up call numbers in a library catalog. In contrast, Mia engages kids in enjoyable conversations with a character they love and makes them part of a compelling narrative. Using Mia feels altogether different from school, which is key for struggling readers who associate reading instruction with years of boredom and frustration.

Mia is also unique in her dual focus. She not only directly supports choices children make about reading through recommendations and suggestions; she also helps them learn to choose without her help through reflection on their past choices and reading experiences. Kids make more powerful choices with Mia’s help, but they will also become more autonomous as readers and learners. Mia wants kids to spend way more time with their noses buried in books than with their eyes glued on screens.

Yes. Meta-analysis of randomized control trials (the gold standard of educational research) clearly demonstrates that supported book choice and book ownership both directly make children more motivated to read and increase how much they read voluntarily. Increased motivation and increased volume of reading, likewise, both powerfully boost reading proficiency. For more details about the research that informs Mia Learning’s work, see our report, Why Mia, Why Now: A Research-Based Path to Self-Motivated and Purposeful Reading

Agent Mia uses multiple types of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Educational technology researchers would classify her as a pedagogical agent. Her ability to talk with students employs several types of natural language understanding (NLU), including automated voice recognition (AVR), text to speech (TTS), dialog management, and intent and entity recognition using deep convolutional neural networks.

Mia recommends books using a proprietary hybrid knowledge-social recommender system developed using a domain model informed by educational research and a team of literacy experts, including teachers and researchers. Mia’s metadata about the characteristics of tens of thousands of books is drawn from a database coded by professional librarians. Also developed in collaborations with experts, our coaching system draws on open learner model research.

Throughout the system machine learning improves the accuracy of NLU and increase the effectiveness of recommendations and coaching. Mia gets better and better the more kids use her.

Mia makes her recommendations using three sources of information:

  1. What Mia learns about each child – Through conversation, Mia learns about what kids want to get out of reading (their purposes), what they enjoy reading about (their interests), and which characteristics of books they like (their preferences, such as author, genre, pace of the story, and personality of main characters). Over time, Mia learns from kids’ choices and experiences, developing an increasingly nuanced and accurate understanding of them as readers.
  2. What Mia knows about books – Mia draws on a database about tens of thousands of books. The metadata include not only basic bibliographic information but also a wide range of more nuanced characteristics literacy experts identify as key to making effective book selections, including difficulty, age-appropriateness, topic/theme, genre, writing style, tone, and characters. For example, if the books a student loves have strong female main characters and fast paced plots, Mia can find additional books with those characteristics to recommend.
  3. What parents and teachers tell Mia – Parents and teachers can share information about children’s reading proficiency level and the age-appropriateness range with which they are comfortable. They can also give Mia “nudges,” which Mia takes into account when making recommendations. For example, to encourage connections between students’ independent reading and an upcoming science unit a teacher might ask Mia to recommend books about rainforests.

For more on how Mia makes personalized recommendations and coaching children to make more powerful choices, read about Mia’s domain model.

Mia draws her recommendations from the tens of thousands of titles from hundreds of publishers available from Mia Learning’s book distributor and/or accessible from nearby libraries. Children with book subscriptions receive new print copies of their chosen books, generally in paperback. Mia Learning does not receive incentives from any publisher to prioritize their offerings.

Schools may choose to limit the books from which Mia chooses her recommendations to those available in any combination of classroom, school, and public libraries and online ebook collections. 

Mia Learning collects data from children only when essential to make its product work effectively. Information is stored only long enough to serve the children involved. No information from or about children is ever sold under any circumstance. Mia Learning has signed and is committed to the principles that inform the Student Privacy Pledge. For more details, see our privacy policy.

You will have the choice of issuing Mia-specific login credentials or enabling access to Mia via existing Clever and/or Google accounts. 

We have confirmed that Mia’s voice recognition is sufficiency accurate for students as young as seven years old. Students may also type their responses throughout, and Mia often offers clickable buttons as shortcuts.

Mia escaped from Dr. Boredom’s Total Snooze Testing Center to join the Anti-Boredom Coalition as a secret agent thanks to some amazing books. Check out this video for the full story.

More enthusiastic readers may have no trouble finding books they are willing to read, but everyone can use help maximizing the satisfaction they get out of reading and their understanding of themselves as readers. As strong readers become more reflective about their purposes and how well their choices advance them, they get more out of reading than ever before. Mia also helps them get out of a rut and discover new interests, expanding their understanding of what they might achieve and create for years to come. 

Students interact with Mia using our private, secure Web application. It will run in any recent Web browser on any device. Voice conversation with Mia requires a browser that supports HTML5 microphone access, such as recent versions of Google Chrome. In quiet environments, voice recognition using most devices’ built in microphones and speakers works fine, but in a classroom setting we recommend using inexpensive headsets, such as the Logitech H111

Many software products try to get kids addicted to using them every waking moment. Mia focuses on getting kids eyes off of screens and onto books. She’s constantly looking for ways to get kids connected with caring adults and learning opportunities in the real world. 

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Second Floor
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 770-0970

The National Science Foundation supports Mia Learning through a Small Business Innovation Research grant, recognizing our cutting edge technology and social impact potential.

Mia Learning, the Mia Learning logos, and Mia’s likeness are registered trademarks of Mia Learning LLC.